Monday, December 31, 2007

Part Ski/Part Trudge

More snow today! 8" of wet great snowman-making snow. The snow stopped around 2pm, and after shoveling out our cars, we decided to put on our rock skis and head out from home onto the powerlines and Highland Green golf course. Our main drive had been plowed, but a nice icy crust remained, making for great gliding. Then it was across the road to the powerlines. There the snow was wet and deep, with no snowmobiles out yet packing down the way. Snowman, in his infiinite wisdom, had put Maxiglide on his skis, a sort of easy glide-on wax. I, on the other hand, had not. Silly Sparkplug! I was instantly regretting my laziness. The snow stuck to the bottom of my skis, making our ski a part glide/part trudge for me. Sort of like having on really long, skinny snowshoes! Ugh. However, despite my grumbling, it was beautiful out. The storm cleared out quickly, and as we were headed back along the first hole on the golf course, the clouds lifted and the sun shone through, hitting the snow-covered evergreens, and casting a wonderful late afternoon light on the ground.

Friday, December 28, 2007

I'm tough!

During my lunch break today while browsing the internet, I came upon an article by Don Allison on, and couldn't resist posting the final paragraph, quoted below, that made me smile:

"The truly hardy, however, will simply slough off the cold, ice, and snow, carrying on with their normal running routines. Sure, you’ll run a little slower and it will be occasionally frustrating, but dealing with winter through steely stoicism is admirable and will add a layer of toughness, which always comes in handy. In the end, no matter how you get through the challenging conditions of the season, take comfort in the fact that spring is just three (long) months away."

So there you go... for all the running I've done this past month in the snow and ice and slush, and for all my winter road training yet to come, I'm tough! Or is it crazy? :-)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!


Photo: Snowman's parent's Christmas tree surrounded by piles of presents

Sunday, December 23, 2007


9am - 6 mile run in the misty rain with Ryan on the streets of Georgetown
10am - After a quick shower and second breakfast, the kitchen came alive with chopping, mixing, measuring, etc, as banana bread was made by Dana, Chris acted as sous chef, Irene made stuffed mushrooms, Snowman and I made coffee cake, and Meghan put together the spinach ball mixture
12am - Snowman slaved over the stove making grilled cheese sandwiches for all
1pm - We were quickly back to cooking -- lasagna, chicken penne casserole, spinach balls, parmesan breadsticks... are we going to be full tomorrow or what?!
3pm - Up to the loft for Wii, which Chris and Meghan brought with them. Think video game with a twist. Tennis, golf, Guitar Hero... No need to go outside and play, just stand in front of your TV. Yikes... I managed to lose badly in tennis to Dana. Stupid Wii!
4pm - The traditional piling of copious amounts of presents under the tree and the chaos of stuffing the stockings
4:15pm - Back to Wii... Whatever did we do while together before this ridiculous invention?!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Messy roads

One of the only downsides of all this early season snow (I know, I know, how could I be complaining?!) is that it makes for some tough running. On Tuesday, I went for a run on the bike path that runs along Rt. 1. Usually the path is nice and clear of snow, but due to the rain that fell on top of all that snow last Sunday, the path was covered with ice. I didn't have my YakTrax and it was an interesting run... Then on Wednesday, I decided to run from home, with my YakTrax this time, down into the Highland Green development. Their main road was literally a sheet of ice all the way. Luckily, the YakTrax give you great traction--otherwise there would have been no way of running down that road. And today, after yet another 4" or 5" inches of snow yesterday, the roads were a mess! To mix things up, I parked at the Bowdoin field house, donned my YakTrax and headed out to run the "Woodside" loop. I knew this would get me on a run with at least 2 or 3 miles of sidewalk... BUT, the sidewalks weren't cleared! So I battled the ice and snow and slush along the side of the road, where the shoulders have been taken up by snow piles, while dodging the cars out on the road for their morning commute. While this 5-mile run would normally be pretty easy, today it tired me out! Guess that means it was a good workout. Whether that is a good or bad thing is currently up for debate...

Monday, December 17, 2007

More Snow!

Another great early snowfall yesterday, leaving us with about 8 inches of beautiful powder underneath 2 inches of ice on top. Mom and Dad were in town for an early Christmas with us, and so we had a quiet day inside, watching the snow fall, opening presents, watching the Weather Channel and football, eating and relaxing. It was a really nice day, and great to see more snow falling :-) It really looks and feels like winter here on the coast of Maine!

This morning, after dropping Mom and Dad off at the airport, Snowman and I headed to the Pinelands to get in a quick afternoon ski. The snow had groomed out really nicely, and despite the whipping winds, we had a great ski on the trails. It's always great to get in an 'unexpected' afternoon of skiing! I hadn't planned on us getting out today, so I was happy :-)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Yo ho! Sending Christmas cards!

With Christmas fast approaching, and Mom and Dad arriving on Friday, it was time to get my act together, get the cards written, the wreath up and the rest of the wrapping done. Of course, nothing can be done in this house without our curious cat, Ronnie, wanting to get in on the act... :-)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Skiing at Great Glen

Even though Ryan had already been up at the Glen four days this week for work, I really wanted to get in some skiing, so I promised I would drive, and we managed to get out of the house yesterday around 9:30am for the drive up to Great Glen. It was a beautiful day--the Presidentials shimmered in the distance as we drove through Shelburne, and there was hardly any wind. Nor were there many people out on the trails, which made it feel like we had the woods to ourselves. Despite the snow being from only one snowstorm, there was great coverage, and the tracks were great. It felt wonderful to glide in the tracks again! A great day of skiing :-)

Friday, December 7, 2007


7 am.
5 degrees outside.
Inside thermometer reading 55 degrees. Time to turn the heat up!
As I started my run, the tears streaming from my eyes due to the cold temps were freezing as they fell, and later, I wiped away a nice layer of frost from my chin and cheeks. D***, it was cold! But if I were still tucked in bed, I wouldn't have been watching a beautiful sunrise, the sky full of pinks, purples and oranges, as I ran along. Very nice.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Winter Running

Now while Snowman is crazy enough to run on the powerlines through the snow, I was not quite up for that this morning. However, I did want to get out for a run. So, with the temps reading 12 degrees, I headed out to do the "Hemlock loop," which would take me down Maine Street and into some of the neighborhoods in Brunswick, making a lollypop back to the start. I knew from past winter running through the side streets that they're often not as clear as the main roads, so I put on my yak trax and headed out. Boy was it cold! It took a while to warm up. The yak trax are great as they definitely give you great purchase on snow, ice and mush, meaning you don't slip and slide all over the place. But you still have to work at it to keep moving forward. So, my 3.5 mile run was pretty slow...and I had a nice frosted look going on my hat and the strands of hair that had escaped. Ah, the joys of running through New England winters :-)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Winter Wonderland

Ronnie the cat woke me up a little after 6am this morning and I decided to slip into my xc ski clothes and get in a quick ski in the town commons before work. I grabbed my beat-up old (like 12 years old!) waxless Rossignols, which were the first pair of xc skis I ever owned, and headed out. These skis are no good for anything but playing around in early season or late season untracked snow. Out of the tracked trails of Great Great or any other ski area they'd be slow as molasses, but they are perfect for a mellow ski in the commons. A few people had been out xc skiing in the snow yesterday afternoon, setting some tracks along the trails, but an inch or two of fresh snow sat atop the tracks, making for some mighty fine gliding. The woods were quiet and the pine limbs were covered with white stuff, as I scooted along, reveling in what felt like my own winter wonderland and enjoying my first ski of the season.

Monday, December 3, 2007


As the storm was moving across the Midwest, the weather people were predicting a big snow storm here in the Northeast, excitably noting we would get a foot of snow or more. Well, we haven't quite gotten that... only about 4 inches or so coat the ground with a light snow still falling... but it sure does look pretty. Like a winter wonderland! We've spent the day indoors, me wrapping presents while Snowman cleaned up and inventoried the wax box, and we just put up the tree. It's a bit early for us to be doing the whole tree thing, but how could the first snowfall of the season not put us in the holiday mood? Let it snow! :-)

Friday, November 30, 2007


When it starts to get cold, dirt and gravel freeze. I highly recommend not tripping on a section of frozen dirt and gravel while running, which is what I did at approximately 7:10 this morning while on my run across the street. Not only does it hurt, but now I look like a tomboy with my knees scraped up (again)... And yup, I'm a klutz :-)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Are we crazy or what?

Anyone who knows us realizes that Snowman and I just aren't quite normal... on our summer and fall weekends our way to relax is to pack up our backpacks, drive two to four hours, hike in all kinds of weather, be stinky, dirty, wet, tired, hot, cold, etc etc. But really it is fun, I swear! There's nothing like good hard exertion, combined with being out in the woods, to clear your mind of all its minor daily thoughts and troubles. Hiking might just be the best therapy out there, well, at least for me :-) However, this time of year, we tend to stick around on the weekends, and that gets us wondering what else we can do to wile away our time and keep in shape. In the winters, we tend to xc ski exclusively, but now that Snowman is feeling healthy, he's gotten it into his head to do some running races again. First the Bradbury Bruiser, a fun but truly tough 12 mile trail run at Bradbury Mountain State Park, then the Turkey Trot, and well, what next? Why not run a 10 mile road race in February? On my birthday to be exact! What the heck?! Are we crazy or what?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Snowman is so creative!

A special thanks to Snowman for sprucing up the header of our new blog :-)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Wilmington Turkey Trot

What better way to burn off all the yummy food eaten over Thanksgiving and the day after than getting up at the crack of dawn on Saturday, driving an hour to Wilmington and participating in the Wilmington 4-mile Turkey Trot? Mom and Dad were troopers, and were wonderful chauffeurs and our cheering crew-thanks guys! Doug and Lucy met us at the start and after a brief hello, we were off. The run was at Carolina Beach State Park, and after a 1/4 mile on the road, we turned off into the woods and ran on the pine-lined, sandy trails. It was a nice, cool morning and the course was well-marked, except for not having mile markers. We meandered through the park, not knowing when the end was in sight, but it came eventually! Snowman did awesome-finishing 14th overall (230 total), and I managed to win my age group, with Lucy coming in 3rd. We both won cool Turkey Trot hats :-) After the "all you can eat" breakfast of meat, eggs, biscuits and grits, we stayed for the awards and then headed to Flaming Amy's for HUGE burritos (Yum!) while catching up with Doug and Lucy! A fun day and a great race!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Golfing is for the Birds

While my parents and Snowman were frustrating themselves this afternoon with wild shots, bunker shots, water hazards and dealing with the cold wind on the golf course, I was meanwhile happily walking along with them--without golf clubs--looking for birds in the trees. Much more enjoyable! So far this visit has yielded a great blue heron, many turkey vultures, some hawks floating on the currents, two bluebirds (cool!), mocking birds, many sparrows, a house wren, a whole flock of redwinged blackbirds that flew overhead on hole 5 (or was it 6? Who knows?!) and a redheaded woodpecker. There have been reports of the eagles as well as the ospreys, but they stayed hidden today. Maybe tomorrow...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

We made it!

Well, after 11 hours of driving today, and six last night, we finally made it :-) Of course, there was much swearing and gnashing of teeth, but now we can relax for a few days before we do it all again!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Long Drive South

Ahhh, the holidays... it's a time for family and lots of eating and drinking... oh yeah, and lots of swearing, especially if you're planning to drive to North Carolina on perhaps the busiest travel day of the year. Hopefully you won't see one of us on the nightly news in the midst of some road rage incident due to stupid people doing stupid things on the highway! Wish us luck :-)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Why can't I have one too?

It seems that everyone else we know has a blog now, so can I have one too? It seems like a good idea. Why not have a spot to publish random thoughts, photos and other things no one (or few) people care about :-) So welcome to the Team Snowplug (from the Sparkplug point of view) blog! Who knows where it will go... :-)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

On the AT - Mt. Washington to Pinkham Notch, NH

September 30, 2007 | Miles: 13.4
Start: Mt. Washington
End: Pinkham Notch
An unorthodox way to do the northern Presidentials, but hey, why not? It was a beautiful day, and we knew we only had a few more weeks to get in this hike before winter arrived in the Pressies, so we decided to go for it. An early start got us to Great Glen for a 9am hiker shuttle up to Washington and hiking by 10am. It was a bit odd to start at the highest point and hike down, especially as the going was rocky and rough, but we eventually got into a groove and enjoyed the views along the way. Fall foliage was slowly creeping into the hills and the leaves of the alpine blueberry, bunchberry and others were changing red, lending a nice hue to the tundra as we walked along. We meandered up and over and along the northern Pressies, and finally descended to Madison Hut in time for a late lunch around 1pm. The hut was already closed but we sat on the rocks outside, took off our shoes and rested for a while. Then the quick but stiff climb to Madison summit where 2 other hikers were relaxing in the sun. Nice guys who are doing the NH 4000 footers. Things slowed down alot in the next few miles as we descended the Osgood Ridge, which was basically a steep and rough jumble of rocks. Where was the nice flat, mellow terrain of last week in VT?! NH is hard! My knees and feet were taking a beating! After the long descent, we finally reached Osgood tentsite, where things mellowed out considerably. The trail meandered through the woods, crossing many brooks and streams, until we reached Lowe’s Bald Spot, a beautiful outcropping near the Auto Road, with great 360 degree views of the Presidentials and the Carter range. Still 2 miles to go… most of it was along an old road but it still seemed to go on forever. We met up with a group of Quebecois near Pinkham—very nice but tired from their hike—and best of all, it was them who picked us up as we attempted to hitch back up Rt. 16 to Great Glen. Thanks guys! We changed quickly and headed to Moat for nachos and beer before the drive home. All in all, a long day but a nice hike.

Nowhere to go but down. Starting a hike at the top of the highest peak around is a weird way to go, but why not? Due to the logistics of getting to the Auto Road and then getting to the top, we didn’t start hiking until just before 10:00. As it turned out, we didn’t stop hiking until just after 6:00. Yup, it was a long day. The Whites are hard. Actually, there was nothing particularly hard about the hike, but everything above treeline is really rocky, which makes for slow going. After the summit of Madison along the Osgood Ridge the trail is ridiculous, if you can even call it a trail. It’s basically just a jumble of sharp rocks. Good times. Luckily, we had a beautiful day: clear and little to no wind. It was a great day to hike and take some photos. We lucked out on weather, just as we did for our hike from 302 to the summit of Washington, so really I can’t complain. It was another great day on the Trail…even if it was a long one.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

On the AT - Minerva Hinchey to Rt. 4, Killington, VT

September 22, 2007 | Miles: 13.9 (plus 1 mile road walk and 0.6 up and back to Killington Peak)
Start: Minerva Hinchey Shelter
End: Cooper Lodge
This might be our earliest start yet! I really feel like a thru-hiker today, spurred on by thoughts of “real food.” The four of us hit the trail at 6:30am and must have all been hungry as we were sitting down to breakfast at the Whistlestop before 8am (luckily the roadwalk was flat!). Chocolate chip pancakes, scrambled eggs and coffee for me. Yum! Fueled up by our big breakfasts, we were back on the trail by 9:30, off to conquer Killington! I kicked it into gear on the way up, and we made good time on the climb. Moxie caught us as we reached the height of land, and we wandered along the ridge together. Moxie decided, in true thru-hiker fashion, to continue on into town, as did Happy, Badmoon and Phantom. But enough was enough for us :) After setting up the tent, up the ridiculously steep 0.2 mile spur trail to Killington peak and lodge beyond. Snowman lamented the fact that we didn’t have any money, not counting on the fact that I am smart (Or paranoid about leaving my wallet in the tent in a crowded area!) and had my wallet in my pocket. So, to the lodge we went, and indulged in fries and beer, looking at the nice views from the top. Ah, what a day.

On the trail at 6:30am and a large breakfast in front of me by 8:30. We got up early and walked a half mile on the road to get to the Whistlestop Café. Moxie and Sawmill came with us, and it was a great way to start the day. I mean how can 2 eggs, lots of French toast, sausage, and homefries…with gravy!!! not be a good start to the day?
We also climbed Killington today. We rocked it. It was a pretty solid climb and we ran right up it. It felt really good to be hiking hard. Best of all, we got the choice tent platform at Cooper Lodge and were able to get to the Killington ski area restaurant before they closed. French fires and beer! Oh yeah. Right before we headed up, we said goodbye to Happy, Bad Moon and Phantom as they were headed to the Inn at Long Trail and then back home. Good time hiking with those guys.
I also finished off the last of the hot n’ zesty salami today. It was pretty darn good for the last couple days.
BTW, this was now 7 days without a shower. We’re tasty.

September 23, 2007 | Miles: 6.2
Start: Cooper Lodge
End: Rt. 4, Inn at Long Trail
Clouds rolled in after dinner, but no rain. We awoke to a dry tent and cool temps. Crisp and clear again. We were on the trail by 8am, meandering through the woods. We decided to continue on our “purist” pursuit of the trail, and didn’t take the “historic” AT which leads straight to the Inn, instead continuing on the AT. Luckily, after a few impatient minutes of hitching at the road, we were picked up by a nice guy in a bright red sports car and dropped off at the Inn’s front door. Even better, our room was ready and we got to shower before we headed to the pub to eat lunch. Moxie and Sawmill joined us, and we spent the afternoon helping them resupply in Rutland. Sawmill was determined to hit the trail and head to the next shelter, so we dropped him off and headed back to the Inn and the pub, where we enjoyed a few beers courtesy of Larry (thanks again!) and dinner with Moxie, while listening to an Irish band play Irish pub songs. A great end to a great hike! This section of VT was beautiful. Plus, we lucked out with great weather and company on this leg of our journey too. We couldn’t have asked for more (although we did wish we could continue hiking north to Canada with Moxie and Sawmill!)… A great trip, and one more state down. Only 290+ miles to go…

Our last day out, and not a single drop of rain the whole trip. The only time I wore my rain gear is while we were doing laundry. That’s not so bad.
It was cool again this morning, and that helped us get moving. Then again, I didn’t need much more motivation than all the goodness that was waiting at the Inn at Long Trail. It was an uneventful hike to the road, and we even got a hitch the 1-mile up the hill to the Inn.
Moxie and Sawmill joined us for lunch and then we helped them resupply in the afternoon. You can do those things when you have a car. It’s fun being a hiker and then being able to turn around and help out your hiking buddies.
Sawmill moved on up the line, but Moxie stayed on to enjoy the pub scene at the Inn at Long Trail. We had a great time hiking with those guys, and it was rally hard to not keep going with them up to Canada. They’re both hiking quite strongly and should have no issues on their way north. Of course, I spent most the evening trying to convince Moxie to hike the AT next year…I think I’m pretty close.
All in all, we had a super trip. Obviously, the weather helped, but Vermont really is great. It’s definitely a section of the AT, we’ll be returning to…maybe to walk to Canada!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

On the AT - Bromley Mountain Shelter to Minerva Hinchey, VT

September 20, 2007 | Miles: 14.3
Start: Bromley Mountain Shelter
End: stealth campsite at Big Branch River
I felt tired today. We started off the morning with a steep climb up to Bromley summit, where we again came across Moxie, Sawmill, Happy, Badmoon and Phantom before they had packed up… this seems to be a theme! We took in the views from the observation tower, where the crew had spent the night in the wind, and then began the descent into Mad Tom Notch. From there, a steep climb up Styles Peak and then over the ridge to Peru Peak Shelter for lunch. Nice foliage along Griffith Lake and a relatively mellow afternoon, with the exception of a rock scramble up Baker Peak, to our campsite along the river. A great spot, with a big flat rock to sit and cook on. Moxie set up camp next to us, and after dinner, we collected firewood and made a great fire. Sawmill and Phantom came back down the trail from the shelter (just 0.1 miles away) to sit and chat around the flames. Can’t beat it. Another beautiful day on the trail (we’re getting spoiled!)

After opening the wine with a mini knife and tent stake and eating our bagel sandwiches. Bert and Sancho appeared. Bert is a dude and Sancho is a dog…a 100-pound golden retriever. The shelter is a double decker, and we had laid our stuff out on the bottom. Bert chose the top to keep Sancho from sleeping on our heads. Of course, he had to lift him up there. Pretty funny. It was even funnier when he had to get Sancho down in the morning. Sancho did some kind of dance because he was freaked out.
On to the hiking, Bromley Mountain is really nice. The crew that slept at the top was a little chilly as the wind blew all night. Of course, they chose to sleep on the tower. Moxie’s Mom has decided to return to civilization. Kind of a bummer, but her hips are bugging her. Probably a good decision. It’s a tough one though, but I completely understand.
Eventually, we hit Mad Tom Notch and then the toughest climb of the trip to the top of Styles Peak. When I looked at the map a couple days before, I just knew it was going to be a grumpy one, and it was. After that we meandering, i.e. grumbled, our way to Peru Peak, and then eventually to Griffith Lake, which was beautiful. VT is really nice. After another short climb up Baker peak, we descended to Big Branch to an awesome campsite. Right along the river. We’ve scored some nice spots on this trip.
Moxie camped nearby, and actually, the shelter was just up the trail, so Sawmill and Phantom came back to hang out by the fire I built. It was a good one. Hairball would have been proud.

September 21, 2007 | Miles: 13.4
Start: stealth campsite at Big Branch River
End: Minerva Hinchey Shelter
After a big dinner last night, I felt better today, more energetic. Another beautiful day! Can it be? We are really lucking out!! A nice hike to Little Rock Pond, where Snowman and I sat on the rocks and had a snack before starting the climb up White Rocks Mountain. Now, we had heard about this mountain before, and it lived up to the hype. In two spots along the trail were these clearings with tons of creative rock art (meaning, lots of cairns that people had built). Pretty crazy. Nice pine forest too. We headed down a blue blaze to White Rocks Cliff, where Happy, Badmoon and Phantom were enjoying lunch at the outlook. We spread out the tent fly to dry and sat for a while before heading on to the shelter. Moxie and Sawmill are here tonight too, while the rest of the crew continued hiking, spurred on by thoughts of dinner at the Whistlestop Café. We, on the other hand, have decided upon an alpine start in an attempt to get in a big breakfast before our climb up Killington! We’ll see how that goes ;-)
Lots of baby frogs on the trail today.

What can I say? Another beauty. Well, actually, it was a bit hazy today. Our first stop was Little Rock Pond. It was beautiful. Man, VT is getting boring.
From the non boring department, there were dozens of cairns piled up on White Rocks Mountain. A really neat rock garden.
We ended the day setting up the tent, getting water and eating dinner. Like I said, what can I say?
Happy, Bad Moon and Phantom moved on to the Whistlestop Café for dinner. We’re planning to hit it tomorrow for breakfast. YUM!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

On the AT - Black Brook to Bromley Mountain Shelter, VT

September 18, 2007 | Miles: 12.8
Start: stealth campsite by Black Brook
End: stealth campsite at Branch Pond Trail
Another crisp morning followed by a blue sky day! Wow. This morning’s climb was up Stratton. I made the climb up the tower, enjoying the views from the top. The colors are shifting in the valley. Beautiful. We stayed on the summit for lunch, and then made our way to Stratton Pond. Another beautiful spot. This section of the AT is awesome. The great fall weather helps, but can it get any better? Great views, great ponds, a few nice climbs… perfect. Of course, it’s also great that we’re in a group of people who are a lot of fun. It’s nice to keep meeting up with everyone throughout the day. After an extended stay at the pond, we all headed on our way. Neighbor Jay was headed down to Manchester today, but the rest of us planned to hit town tomorrow. Snowman and I stopped at the Branch Pond Trail, and set up our tent in a grassy clearing by the brook, at the edge of a field full of purple asters and goldenrod. Everyone else headed on, and it was just us.
Flora and fauna report: 2 frogs, minnows and newts seen in Stratton Pond, 2 spruce grouse and after dinner, a big bull moose
I could hear Sawmill from the other side of the brook. Impressive.
Stratton is awesome. What a great climb! And another spectacular trip to the top of a fire tower. We stopped for a snack on the way up Stratton and Phantom passed us. Phantom hiked the AT in ’01, the LT in ’02 and the PCT in ’05. He looks like he’s not even trying. Danielle did not like the fact that he passed us. So, she started hammering to catch up. After nearly killing me in the process we caught up to him when he stopped at an overlook, but we had closed in on him before he stopped. Maybe we’re still hikers after all.
It also seems that Neighbor Jay is in a full court press in his attempt to pink blaze with Moxie. Pretty funny to watch. She doesn’t seem to mind.
After the awesomeness of Stratton Mountain, we descended to Stratton Pond. It was ridiculously beautiful. Just perfect. We spent a long time just hanging out.
Then we headed off to the best campsite ever. OK, maybe not THE best, but pretty close. Grassy clearing, enough for one tent, a brook a few feet away, a big rock to lean against for dinner, and a bright red maple directly above. It’s all straight out the brochure. Oh yeah, and we saw a moose near the campsite. Ah, life on the trail.
Health update: there is no update. Everything feels good. We’ve gone longer than we planned the last two days, which will make our resupply day tomorrow shorter and easier.

September 19, 2007 | Miles: 7.7
Start: stealth campsite at Branch Pond Trail
End: Bromley Mountain Shelter
Lots of dew on the tent fly in the morning. 48 degrees in the tent. We hit the trail early, knowing we were headed into Manchester to resupply, and made it to Prospect Rock, an outcropping less than a mile down the road, in time to see Moxie, Happy, Badmoon and Phantom packing up. They had camped there last night. The crew of 3 blueblazed into town, and Snowman, Moxie and I made our way on the AT, chatting along the way. Moxie’s mom was meeting her there, so we happily accepted a ride into town. Manchester is actually a great hiker town, at least in the way all the services are set up. Of course, there are also outlets, meaning the town is a strange mix of hikers, yuppy tourists and locals. Still, it worked out great, and we even got a ride back to the trailhead from Moxie and her mom after a painless resupply, HUGE calzones, ice cream and laundry. We headed up to Bromley Mountain Shelter, 2 miles out of town. Snowman and I stayed, while Moxie and mom headed up to the summit to meet the others. We felt we had carried our bottle of wine far enough :) Night fell before Bert & Sancho (his dog), hiking the AT, arrived. We had fun chatting before we finally fell asleep.
Saw a downy woodpecker by the shelter.

Another great day. Our first stop was the overlook at Prospect Rock where Moxie, Happy, Bad Moon and Phantom had camped. Neighbor Jay has gotten off the Trail to head back to work. The view was great. Ah, Vermont. We had an uneventful hike to the road with Moxie. Actually, Moxie’s mom is coming out for a couple days, so we didn’t even have to hitch. She met us at the trailhead.
Manchester, Vermont is a shopping mecca. High end. Needless to say, we avoided those stores. No Brooks Brothers for us. Instead we hit, the pizza place, Price Chopper, EMS, the LaunLiquor Store. Oh, and I almost forgot Ben & Jerry’s. All within walking distance. All in all, a great trail town. And, Moxie and Mom picked us up and brought us back to the Trail.
The rest of our crew headed to the top of Bromley, but the shelter a mile below the summit was really nice. We decided to stay. We had wine to drink after all.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

On the AT - Bennington to Black Brook, VT

September 16, 2007 | Miles: 10.1
Start: Rt. 9, Bennington
End: Goddard Shelter
After a late arrival at the Inn at Long Trail last night, we awoke to big breakfast and our 9am shuttle by Dot. Dot kept us entertained with fun hiking and trail maintenance stories until Bennington. We hit the trail at 11am, and started the 10 mile gradual uphill trek to Goddard Shelter. Beautiful hiking weather-cool, clear, bright blue sky. Wonderful! A few leaves are turning. We arrived at 4pm to the shelter with a pretty view out into the VT hills. 4 other hikers joined us – Tryn & Mary, hiking a SOBO section of the AT, plus Moxie and Carl, who are hiking the LT NOBO. All were tired, and it was cold, so we were all snug in our sleeping bags by 8pm. HOWEVER, we were awakened a while later by huge snores emitting from Carl’s bag. We had forgotten our earplugs, and so Snowman finally gave up around 9pm and went to find a tentsite! We needed to get some sleep! He found a small flat spot up in the woods and we set up quickly in the dark. Ah, peace and quiet…
Flora and fauna notes: 2 frogs, 1 orange newt, hairy woodpecker, lots of chickadees and juncos cavorting in the pines by the shelter, and 1 thrush (hermit, I think).

Full disclosure: I’m writing all the journal entries for this trip after it is over. I didn’t take any notes or anything while we were on the Trail. Oh well.
We had a long drive leading to a late arrival at the Inn at Long Trail, which was to be the bookend for this trip. On Sunday morning we took in breakfast at the Inn, and waiting for Dot to pick us up. Dot has section hiked the AT and the LT and now volunteers with the Green Mountain Club…along with helping hikers with shuttles. Thanks Dot!
We hit the trail just before 11:00 for the 10 mile trek to Goddard Shelter. I have to admit, I had some concerns going into this trip as my back has been fairly tight. Not really sure why, but I think I just need to work on my core strength. My knees have felt good, but I haven’t carried a pack for 8 days either. So, we’ll see.
Not much to report from today other than that the weather was perfect. Actually, it was quite cool. And by that I mean perfect for hiking. We had a fairly solid initial climb up from Route 9, but the rest of the day the terrain was reasonable with some nice brooks and a couple overlooks. Vermont is nice.
There’s 6 of us in the shelter tonight. Two AT Sobos, and two LT Nobos. Or are there...

September 17, 2007 | Miles: 11.5
Start: Goddard Shelter
End: stealth campsite by Black Brook
This morning Carl was quickly named Sawmill by Snowman and a new trailname was born! It was a cold night and there was frost on the grass in front of the shelter. A quick jaunt to the top of Glastenbury Mountain, and into the fire tower there. I didn’t make it to the top, but enjoyed the view from a platform just above the trees— great spot, as tons of birds were in the pines—goldfinch, redbreasted nuthatches, sparrows and others I couldn’t identify. The “it’s a small world” moment of the day occurred in the fire tower. Another hiker, Neighbor Jay, was up on the top taking photos. Snowman chatted with him and it turns out he hiked the PCT in 2005. We told him we’d done the AT, and he said we probably know some of the same people… and it turns out we do! Mr. Fusion, one of the first people we met on the AT, is now hiking the PCT and Neighbor Jay spent time hiking this summer out west with him. What a coincidence! Nice hike today, relatively mellow terrain. We ended at a great spot right by Black Brookand Snowman started a fire. Moxie, Sawmill, Neighbor Jay and friends Badmoon, Happy and Phantom set up camp across the river.

I’ve dubbed him Sawmill. Last night, one of the LT Nobos, Carl, started snoring. Then the shelter starting shaking. Luckily, it was only 9:00, so I climbed out of my sleeping bag (temps were in the 40’s), donned my headlamp and found a tentsite. We spent a quiet night in the tent. It was 39° in the tent this morning. Chilly, but that meant we’d have good temps for the day.
The summit of Glastenbury was only .3 away from the shelter, and I wish we’d gotten water at the shelter and camped on the summit. Oh well. Next time. The views from the fire tower were unreal. What a morning!
We had a short day planned, but ended up pushing it further, which was a great call. The site we scored by Black Brook is one of the nicest stealth sites we’ve ong the whole AT: great little flat spot for the tent, a bench and a fire ring. Good stuff. It turns out we’re hiking with about 6 other people out here: the aforementioned Sawmill, who incidentally is a really nice guy; Moxie, who has a great spirit; and a group of 4 who hiked the PCT together in ’05: Neighbor Jay, Happy, Bad Moon and Phantom. I got a small fire going, which is definitely going to help us keep warm on a fairly chilly evening.

Monday, September 10, 2007

On the AT - Church Road to Williamstown, MA

September 10, 2007 | Miles: 14.5
Start: Church Rd., Cheshire
End: Rt. 2, Williamstown
Another gray day... Mom and Dad again acted as taxi service and got us to Cheshire for a 7:45am start. We knew we had a long day ahead of us, with a long hike and a long drive home, so the early start was necessary... and they were driving home to NC so they needed it too! Thanks again guys! Having you around this weekend made filling in these remaining MA sections much easier! We appreciate it :-)

We pretty much hiked in the clouds and mist all day, which made the woods seem sort of dark and spooky... the hike up to Mt. Greylock was long, but fair, and we managed to make the summit in time for lunch. The road is currently closed to cars as they're doing work on it, so the summit was pretty quiet, except for a group of guys working on some sort of weather/wind towers. Who knows? We sat outside the boarded up Bascom Lodge and ate lunch before heading off along the ridge... We had just made it to the Money Brook Trail with 3 miles left in the hike when it really started to rain. Not that we weren't wet anyway, from all the mist and clouds and humidity and sweat! The final few miles were steep, but not as bad as we had feared and less than 7 hours later we were back at Mim's, getting clean. The best thing about today is that now we are done with MA! YEAH! :-) Only took us 3 years to finish it off :-)
Flora and fauna report: 7 orange newts, 5 spruce grouse scared up, 1 bunny. Pretty quiet in the woods today...

A wet day. It only rained on us for about an hour near the end of the hike, but it was about 143% humidity all day. It was dark, too. And kinda spooky. The climb up Greylock from Cheshire is pretty nice. Nothing really hard, just a good steady uphill for 8 miles. We had heard horror stories about the descent off Greylock, but that wasn't that bad either. We moved right along, too, and finished in pretty decent time.
Best of all, we finished MA. It's the first state we've finished since CT in 05, so it felt good to put that one behind us. Our vacation is coming up, and if all goes to plan VT shouldn't be far behind.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

On the AT - Pittsfield Road to Grange Hall Road, MA

September 9, 2007 | Miles: 6.9
Start: Pittsfield Road, The Cookie Lady’s House
End: Grange Hall Road
After getting a bit turned around on our drive to Pittsfield Rd., the hike went off without a hitch. This 6.9 mile hike took us 2:25 and was nice and mellow. The day was overcast and humid, with showers forecast. The woods were nice as was the treadway. Not much to say about this hike, except that we were done in time for lunch! Mom and Dad met us at Grange Hall Road (thanks guys!) and we went to Bob's Country Kitchen in Lanesborough, where we all enjoyed some yummy food.
Flora and fauna: 8 orange newts, 2 toads, 1 frog. An amphibian day!

Art and Cheryl acted as a taxi service, and they're pretty darn good at it. It was a gray day, and this was an unexciting section. So, we hiked fast, and we're done in about 2 1/2 hours. Then I ate a hiker lunch at good ole homecooking breakfast all day restaurant: Cheese and mushroom omelette and a grilled cheese with bacon and turkey. Delicious!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

On the AT - Crawford Notch to Mt. Washington summit, NH

August 5, 2007 | Miles: 12.6
Start: Crawford Notch
End: Mt. Washington

Wow! We couldn’t have asked for a better day to hike, especially this hike! Ryan drove the car up to the top of Mt. Washington on Saturday afternoon and got a ride down in the shuttle. That way, we would have a car at the top to hike to. Brilliant! I woke up around 5:30am, and glanced out the window… the alpenglow on the mountains was gorgeous, and the sky was crystal clear. I knew it was going to be a great day! And it was…
We started out around 9am from Crawford Notch and began the climb up Webster Cliffs. It almost felt like fall. After a stretch of hot and humid weather, the system had finally moved out and we were left with bright blue skies, a nice cool breeze and no humidity. Wonderful. I could go on and on and on today about the views. They were as good as it gets. We had lunch at Mizpah Hut, filled up our water, and headed up Mt. Clinton. From Clinton onward, we were pretty much above treeline the whole way, with great views of Washington and the Presidential Range, not to mention everything else around. It was warm and the sun was bright but the breeze felt wonderfully cool. It made for great hiking.
There were lots of people out enjoying the nice day, and most of them were simply day hikers—Ryan got a lot of weird looks and one funny comment about his “skirt” :) Also saw a fair amount of wildlife: one HUGE toad (his body was at least 4 inches long!), 2 snakes, one vole, two gray jays at the hut, a white-throated sparrow, lots of juncos, and a brood of baby spruce grouse in the col before the hut.
We really enjoyed today. What a great hike! Took us 7 1/2 hours, with a good number of stops, and some slow moving in the last 1.5 miles uphill from Lake of the Clouds Hut to the summit of Washington after a long day.

At one point today Danielle said, “Man, this is sweet!” That pretty much sums it up. The Whites are totally different. We spent about 5 hours above treeline, and it was gorgeous. The weather was ridiculous…just perfect. I really can’t say anything else that would even come close to describing what a great hike this was.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

On the AT - Rt. 4, Killington to Stony Brook Shelter, VT

July 29, 2007 | Miles: 10.0
Start: Rt.4 , Killington
End: Stony Brook Shelter

The first half of today’s hike was nice and mellow. After three quick miles we hit Gifford Woods State Park where we ate lunch in the nice picnic area in the shade, with bathrooms and a water spigot nearby. Then we went pass an idyllic pond where people were fishing and kayaking, the fish jumping and little ducks by the shore. Several hikers lounged on the grass enjoying the views. These first miles went by easily… then we hit Quimby Mountain, a steep climb which, combined with the heavy, humid weather, made us sweat! After a rest along the ridge, we made our way down to Stony Brook Shelter, arriving in good time by 4pm. We made ourselves comfortable, and enjoyed the evening chatting with the thru-hikers that wandered in throughout the afternoon. I made my way into the tent around 8pm, and had a good night’s sleep!

Perhaps the most interesting part of our hike today was actually getting to the hike. It was a two part journey. The first part was a drive from home to the end of our hike on Rt. 12. On the way, we got a flat tire. Danielle’s first response was “Should I call Triple A?” Hell no! I can change a tire. 10 minutes later and we were on our way, and she was impressed with my manliness. The second part was a taxi ride from the crazy taxi lady. She talked the whole way about…I have no idea. She was insane. She drove slowly. It was painful. Then we hiked. Nice hike. 10 miles in 5 hours. Saw a great campground that we’ll perhaps stay at in the future. Hiked past a pretty little pond. Met a bunch of thruhikers. Another day on the AT.

July 30, 2007 | Miles: 13.7
Start: Stony Brook Shelter
End: Rt. 12, Woodstock
Another hot and humid day. Today’s hike was relatively uneventful, but a nice hike through the forest, with a short stretch through some fields at the end. The morning’s climb ended at The Lookout, a cabin on private property that hiker’s can use, which had nice views of the countryside and lots of raspberry bushes with ripe berries. Yum! The rest of the day’s hike had us wandering along through the woods, eventually dropping us out in the Vermont fields we know and love. All in all, a good, if sweat-soaked hike!
Flora and fauna report: Indian pipe, blue bead lilies, a few wood sorrel, 4 snakes, several chickadees flitting about the trees at Lakota Lake Lookout, and a Broad-winged Hawk calling for its mate from a tree branch near an old woods road where we stopped for a water break. Cool!

Today was fine. Really humid. Therefore, I was really sweaty. We hiked. It was fast, only about 6.5 hours. The biggest complaint was the totally wrong guidebook and even more incorrect elevation profile on the map. We had no idea where we were for most of the day. So we kept hiking. There were cows at the end. MOO!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

On the AT - Pinkahm Notch to Rt. 2, Gorham, NH

June 19, 2007 | Miles: 13.1
Start: Pinkham Notch
End: Imp Campsite
A beautiful day for a tough traverse, with many steep ascents and descents, going over 5 of NH’s 4000 footers. We’ve done some of this section of the AT before, and it did not like us then… However, luckily this time, we had a better time of it, although that isn’t to say it was rough! There was lots of sweating (it was humid), and more than enough grumbling… It took us over 9 hours to do these 13 miles, with the first two miles rising up from the Notch to the start of the Wildcat ridge, giving us great views along the rocky ledges back over to the Presidentials. Then we descended into Carter Notch, stopping at the AMC hut to enjoy the luxury of filter-free water (yeah!) and lunch at their picnic tables, before quickly and steeply ascending up to Carter Dome. Ugh! That was a climb! Over Mt. Hight, Middle Carter and North Carter, where we began our final descent to Imp. I remembered lots of steep rocky slabs to descend on this section, and my memory hadn’t lied. It was indeed steep! Then finally, the spur to Imp, with yet another descent :) After a quick set-up, we devoured our dinner while trying to keep away the black flies that had descended upon us in droves. Needless to say, we didn’t have much success! Ah, hiking in June….
Overall, a tough section of trail, but with some nice views, lots of new bog bridges and some good wildflowers—bunchberries, gold thread, star flowers, rhodora, white violets and a few trillium—to liven up the woods.

A long hike to close out a long week of work—no rest for the wicked. Day started cloudy, but cleared out nicely, then got hazy. And we saw it all as it took us more than 9 hours to get from point A to point B. The initial climb up the Wildcat Ridge Trail was hard—really steep. But we made it to the top of Wildcat Ski Area and then onto Wildcat D in just about 2 hours. Then some more work to climb Wildcats C, B and A, followed by a huge descent to Carter Notch Hut. The climb out of Carter Notch to Carter Dome was even bigger, and slow after a tasty lunch. Then it gets a little muddled, we just kept walking over the Carters. It was long and rugged and warm and we were tired. Then came the descent from North Carter—reeeediculous. Eventually, we got to Imp campsite 13 miles after we started. I got tired just typing that. Overall, it was a great day. We were tired, but we had a blast. The views were great. The trail was beautiful. The company was even better. All in all good times. But then the 8 million black flies arrived at Imp, made it a little tough to eat my Teriyaki noodles. I muddled through.

June 20, 2007 | Miles: 8.0
Start: Imp Campsite
End: US 2, Gorham
In today’s episode of “The adventures of Sparkplug & Snowman,” we find our duo, tired from a long hike yesterday and not much sleep, continuing their traverse of the Carter-Moriah Range, ascending the slick rocky ledges of Moriah in the rain, hurrying along to get out of the wind, passing by the vistas now enshrouded in fog… the rain finally relents as they descend to the Rattle River Shelter, the trail mellowing as it follows the stream. As the rain relents, the bugs begin their attack, and the episode concludes with a shot of S&S running the last half mile of the now flat trail in an attempt to outrun and outwit the hordes of angry, blood-sucking mosquitos that have descended upon them… Yup, that pretty much sums it up.

So, I woke up feeling like I had been to Fight Club last night…and lost to Meat Loaf. Not pretty. So, a grouchy start. Then it started raining. Then we walked. Then we tried not to get hypothermia climbing over Mt. Moriah. Danielle was in the lead and yelled at me because “She felt rushed.” Of course, I was rushing her…it was miserable, and I wanted to get out of there. Once over the peak, it was all good from there. Off and on rain, but nothing too bad. Then it was all down. About 3000 feet down to the land of the ravenous mosquitoes. We ran/jogged the last half mile in order to not donate too much blood. A great 2 days.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

On the AT - VT 12, Woodstock to West Hartford, VT

July 17, 2007 | Miles: 12.6
Start: VT 12, Woodstock
End: West Hartford

Today can be summed up as a day with 1) lots of steep, short PUDs (or unnecessary ups and downs) and 2) lots of overgrown, high field crossings that made nice red welts on my legs. While the field crossings did yield some nice patches of milk weed, black eyed susans and a good patch of raspberries at one point, as well as a few nice views of the rolling VT hills, overall, this was a section that was not super exciting and which elicited lots of grumbling! We were both dragging a bit and the miles seemed to go on forever… so, needless to say, we were very happy to reach the car at the end of the day!

Today kinda sucked. No one event to point to, just an off day. The weather was nice, so that wasn’t a factor. We were both feeling sluggish from our big day in NH yesterday, and it felt like it was taking forever. Plus, the trail wasn’t that great. A couple decent views, but lots of PUDS and a number of overgrown fields. It just wasn’t really fun. I’m glad this section is out of the way, and I hope the other parts of VT are better…they have to be, right?

Monday, July 16, 2007

On the AT - Lyme-Dorchester Rd to NH25A, NH

July 16, 2007 | Miles: 16.0
Start: Lyme-Dorchester Rd.
End: NH 25A

A gorgeous day to be hiking in southern NH. We really enjoyed this section. With two big climbs, it was the perfect Danielle & Ryan hike. The hike up to Smarts Mountain was pretty nice, with some great views from Lambert Ridge. When we got to the firetower on Smarts, a fast-moving NOBO was sitting, playing his banjo and singing. Very nice to snack to :) Then it was down to South Jacobs Brook for lunch. A great spot! Mount Cube was next on the list, again with some nice views along the ledges leading to the summit, and a few blueberries too. Yum! By the summit, we were pretty tired, but were still moving along well. The final descent seemed to go on for a while, but we soon arrived at our car, very happy with our hike! Saw quite a few thru-hikers throughout the day, and gave a ride to Pokey, a section hiker like us, back to her car at Lyme-Dorchester Road.

Flora and fauna report: Most of the wildflowers have passed, but we did see some nice wood sorrel, wild geraniums as well as the blue beads and bunchberry berries starting to get blue and red, respectively. Saw 5 snakes, a toad, a frog, one orange salamander (newt), a deer and Ryan saw two woodpeckers.

Today rocked! Of course, I started out a little less than thrilled to be up and out, but a Dunkin Donuts Supreme Omelet has just the right amount of disgusting to fuel the day. A great climb up Smarts Mountain. Hard, but fair. Great views from the summit fire tower, plus some tunes from Five String, a northbounder with a banjo. Mt. Cube was even better. A number of open sections and a great view from the top. The trail was busy today with a number of thruhikers, both north and southbound, which made it a lot of fun. It was a long day with the two big climbs, but it was a great one.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

On the AT - Williamstown, MA to Rt. 9, Bennington, VT

July 7, 2007 | Miles: 6.9
Start: Rt. 2, Williamstown
End: Seth Warner Shelter

A visit with Hairball and Snowbunny made this morning great! They met us at the parking lot at Rt. 9, and we piled into Rhonda, Hairball’s Honda Civic with the two of them, the two of us and their two dogs—one Rat Terrier and one Chesapeake Bay Retriever. The car was stinky and full! We had a big breakfast and caught up before they dropped us at the trail crossing at Rt. 2 in Williamstown. Stomachs full, we started off, knowing we could take it slow as we were just planning a 7-mile day. And overall, it was a mellow hike. Easy treadway, a few views and the first blueberries of the season atop Pine Cobble (yum!) and then a wander through the woods to the shelter. We arrived at 1:30 and had a late lunch. We figured we were in for a quiet night, but people kept arriving… in the end there were 16 of us in the shelter and at the surrounding tent sites! Lots of Long Trail thru-hikers starting out! We took spots in the shelter and escaped the rain that came in the afternoon and during the night… that was nice… however, we were entertained by a fellow hiker who even before enjoying the bourbon he was carrying was a gregarious character. It was a bit noisy to say the least!

Flora and fauna report: Indian pipe, blueberries, wood sorrel, mountain laurel, one snake, lots of birds chirping in the woods.

What’s the best way to start a hike? With a visit from friends and a big breakfast. Team Hairbunny, Hairball and Snowbunny, met us at the trailhead in Bennington, took us to breakfast and then dropped us at the trailhead in Williamstown. Good to catch up with those guys. That was really the most exciting part of the day. The trail was mellow and very nice. Overall, it was an easy day, and we were done by about 1:30. Short and sweet. Some thunderstorms, rolled in and we stayed in the shelter. It was busy with about 15 people. About half of them were just starting the Long Trail and on their way to Canada. The Long Trail runs about 270 miles the length of Vermont and coincides with the AT for a little less than half of it. Then the AT takes a right and heads for Katahdin. We had a good fire, talked trail with all the new hikers and had a great afternoon and evening. It got a little noisy later as one of the guys drank waaayyyy too much bourbon. A drunk 65 year-old imitating a barred owl is not how you want to go to sleep.

July 8, 2007 | Miles: 11.5
Start: Seth Warner Shelter
End: Rt. 9, Bennington

We awoke to rain, and didn’t rush to get out, but managed to hit the trail a little after 8am. Today Vermont lived up to its nicknames—“The Green Tunnel” and “Ver-mud”! It was very nice walking through the forest, nice and lush and green with lots of clearing with sweet-smelling ferns and hobblebush. But along with that, there was lots of mud! Squish, squish! We went by a few nice ponds/swamps today, including a very cool beaver pond. A quick 7 miles to Congdon Shelter where we had lunch, then a climb up to Harmon’s Hill before a steep descent down to Rt. 9. The skies cleared and things started to heat up as we headed down to the road. We were envious of those continuing on up the Long Trail as they all had that great combination of apprehension, excitement and wonder as they started on their hike, but it was a great 2 days out, and we’ll be out again soon!

Wildlife highlight of the day: 12 bright orange salamanders (newts) seen, including one that was only about an inch long. So cute!

Green tunnel and mud. That’s Vermont. So, we did a little over 18 miles on this trip, and here’s the best part: it was easy. We had a great two days. That’s really all there is to report from today. It rained in the morning, cleared, was really, really muggy and about 90 degrees. That’s July, though. Overall, we’re feeling really good about the progress we’ve made so far this year and reaching our goal. This AT thing has been pretty fun…I guess that’s why we’re still going.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

On the AT - Grafton Notch to East B Hill Road, Andover, ME

June 24, 2007 | Miles: 10.3
Start: Rt. 26, Grafton Notch
End: East B Hill Road, Andover
A gorgeous day to be out! The air was crisp, the sky was blue and there was a nice cool breeze to keep away the bugs. Perfect! We had done the climb up and over the Baldpates before, but it was long ago, and we hadn’t remembered it being such a nice hike! The section from the West Baldpate summit down into the col where beautiful mountain laurel was blooming, as well as this cool grass with little puff ball tops blowing in the wind, and then back up to East Baldpate was gorgeous but breezy! The descent off East was steep, and we stopped in the notch for lunch, then headed up and over Surplus Mountain and wandered down through the woods on the other side to the road… the woods were nice and green with wood sorrel, ladyslippers, blue bead lilies, star flowers, Canada mayflower along the trail. It was a good 5-hour hike, and we enjoyed it!

Today rocked. We felt great. The trail was nice. Most of all the weather was perfect and the views were amazing. The Baldpates are one of the most beautiful stretches we’ve hiked yet. It was too bad we were only out for the day. A little more than ten miles in about five hours. Good stuff. And our extremely random and haphazard section hike rolls on.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

On the AT - East B Hill Road to South Arm Road, Andover, ME

June 10, 2007 | Miles: 10.1
Start: East B Hill Road, Andover
End: South Arm Road
Bright and sunny, a bit humid
Aided once again by our friend Earl at the Cabin shuttling us from South Arm to the AT crossing on East B Hill Road, we were on our way by 9:15. The ascent to Surplus Pond was pretty mellow, and the woods were full of white and pink lady slippers, gold thread, bunchberry, blue bead lilies and Indian poke. A few trout lilies and trillium holding on too, but mostly their season is over. Anyway, as always, the spring woods are vsery pretty. At the pond, which is accessible by a dirt road, a large group had set up camp right on the trail, although friendly. From there we climbed up Wyman Mountain, wandering through pine forest and taking in a few nice views along the way. There were a few pesky blowdowns after the summit on our descent to Hall Mountain Lean-to, where we stopped to have our lunch, and then the trail went down, down, down into Sawyer Notch. Pesky notches! Sawyer Brook was running high, but we managed to get across without getting too wet! Thank goodness for goretex ;-) Then up, up, up Moody Mountain, with numerous ladders and scrambles along the way. We were surprised to see some moose droppings on the way up. It seems moose will go anywhere, even if very steep! The climb seemed to go on forever, but eventually we hit the high point with a nice scenic vista. We didn’t stay long as the long grass and brambles had irritated my legs and I was looking forward to getting down to Black Brook to wash off my legs… Silly sensitive skin! Luckily, the descent was much gentler and soon enough we were at the brook. As we pondered whether we could get across without getting our feet wet, a kingfisher flew by. Neat! Eventually we decided to just wade on through and I had fun splashing around in the water. It felt good on a warm day! All in all, a good 6-hour hike, and another 10 miles done ;-)

Earl said it best: “A great day to be out in the woods.” That pretty much sums it up. Another shuttle from Earl from the Cabin in Andover, and we were on our way. 6 miles of mellow climbing to Hall Mtn. Lean-to, then 4 miles of 1400 feet down, 1000 feet up and another 1000 feet down. Kinda hard, but not impossible. Not much to report from the day other than another beautiful section of Maine.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

On the AT - Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to to Rt. 4, Rangeley, ME

June 5, 2007 | Miles: 9.4
Start: Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to
End: Rt. 4, Rangeley
It poured overnight, but we awoke to what looked like clearing skies, which was nice. As we were packing up to leave, a grey jay came in to check us out. Ryan took a few peanuts from our GORP and held them out in his hand; the bird swooped right in, scooped them up, and then kind of cocked his head as if looking for more… We also saw a hummingbird fly by! And down by the pond, a snowshoe hare hopped by. Later we scared up a hairy woodpecker; also saw a hermit thrush and a black-throated blue warbler. Still no moose, but again, lots of droppings and hoofprints. The terrain was relatively mellow today, although with the additional rain last night, it was the wettest day yet! And of course, I managed to slip off almost every root or rock that I used to get through the water on the trail. Finally in frustration, I stomped in a puddle and felt a bit better! I think the trail would have been better described today as a combination stream/bog/pond with a few small patches of dry ground thrown in… I don’t think we’ve ever been on a wetter trail. At the final stream crossing, with really no good way across, we simply stomped right through, which was a nice change to attempting to keep dry by hopping around the water! All in all, a good, if wet and rough, three days of hiking. And better yet, the skies cleared and we had blue skies for the last few hours!

It rained pretty hard last night making everything wetter. The Trail today was underwater. Pretty much everywhere. It’s our third and final day and I’m feeling pretty good. My body has felt great, and I’ve yet to mention my new pack. I just purchased a Six Moons Designs, Starlite. It’s awesome, get one. It maxes out at carrying 35 pounds, which is about as heavy as I want to go. My base weight is just under 15 pounds, so add food and water, and I’m in good shape. It carries great and these three days were a great test. It hasn’t quite reached legendary status like my sleeping bag, Western Mountaineering Ultralite, but it’s pretty sweet. Oh yeah, we hiked today. My body felt really good. No pain in the knees at all. I think I was moving a little better than Danielle at the end of the hike, which is rare. Then again, she was carrying about 10 pounds of water in each boot after falling into pretty much every stream today. And, by stream, I mean trail. The trail was pretty much all water. There were a number of bog bridges, but we literally could have used about 7 miles of them. Water everywhere. It was a bit ridiculous, but that’s late spring in Maine. Hopefully, our boots will dry in time for next weekend. At least the sun came out today. It was nice to not be getting wet from above, even if we were being saturated from below. All in all, it was a great trip, and out first foray onto the AT in Maine. We’re slowly piecing it together, and it’s always nice to be in the woods.

Monday, June 4, 2007

On the AT - Bemis Mtn Lean-to to Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to, ME

June 4, 2007 | Miles: 8.3
Start: Bemis Mountain Lean-to
End: Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to
After a night of snoring, we woke up to a chilly, wet morning. Ryan’s watch was reading 46 degrees in the shelter. So on with the raingear, and off we went, heading out at 7:45, last to leave, as usual… the hike up over Bemis Peaks 1 and 2 was up and over some rocky ridgeline, the blooming rhodora were nice purple highlights amidst the green and grey that dominated the rest of the landscape. However, the rocky ledges continued as we descended, and boy were they slick! We had a rough go of it, and it took us forever to navigate the slippery rocks. Ryan was not amused, and wanted to stop hiking once we reached Rt. 17. However, we finally got down off the Bemis peaks, and hit what Wingnut called a “ford.” We were relieved to find that the river was crossable on a nice log and with a few rock hops—much better than a ford on a cold day! That perked Ryan up a bit, as did the rest of the hike, which was much more mellow, winding along through some nice forest, adding Indian poke and wild oat to our list of flora seen on the way. We even had a bit of trail magic! Along one of the ponds, there was a small stream with orange sodas and a few PBRs left by a 2006 thru-hiker. We picked up a PBR to enjoy with dinner. Nothing like a cold PBR on a cold, rainy day :-) Toward the end of our hike, we hugged the shoreline of Long Pond, which had a nice beach, and then ended up at Sabbath Day Pond, with the shelter a bit removed from the pond’s edge. It was pretty early, but with no other shelters along the route, we decided to call it a day and hang out for the afternoon. Stickman and Faithful joined us, and we had another evening together, once again happy to be in the shelter and out of the rain, which picked up significantly overnight!

Well, another soggy day on the trail. In fact, the trail is underwater. Everything is soaked. It hasn’t really brought a full tilt rain, but the mist to almost rain has been constant. We started the day continuing along the Bemis Ridge, then with a thousand-foot descent to Bemis Stream. It sucked, and I was not a happy camper. I was sucking my thumb and wanted to be home with my woobie. Plus, I was dreading the advertised ford of Bemis Stream. I hate, hate, hate cold water. Needless to say, I was not a fun person to be around. Once again, Danielle put up with my whining, and convinced me we shouldn’t just pack it in at Route 17, which was a mile or so away. Anyway, we made it off the ridge and we reached the stream. Stickman and Faithful, after starting out from the shelter before us, were already there. Referring to the ridge, Stickman said very matter-of-factly, “That was kinda tough.” This guy’s attitude was light years ahead of mine. So, after an hour of pouting, I smacked myself around and got it together. Plus, the ford was super easy. One nicely placed downed tree and a simple rock hop later, we were on the other side. Actually, on many parts of the trail we got a lot wetter than on this ford. I was planning to have to take off the rain pant and don the Crocs, but it was really easy. Then we had the steep climb up to Route 17, and I was feeling good. I like climbing. I’m sick. The rest of the way was pretty mellow, but wet, wet, wet. June in Maine is very soggy. We passed a couple beautiful ponds, which I love hiking past. Really some of my favorite scenery. Best of all, we found cold beer in a stream left by a past thruhiker. PBR with dinner? Absolutely. I’ll definitely tote a beer to the shelter. I turned it into a mousehanger for the shelter. It’s nice to give back. We had a couple walking snacks since it was so rainy, and were eating lunch in the shelter by about 1:00. Then it was into the bag for a relaxing but chilly afternoon. Stickman and Faithful showed up about 2 hours after us, and we spent the night chatting about the Trail. I tried to convince Stickman to keep his wet t-shirt on. “Just throw a warm layer over it, and then sleep in it. It will be dry by morning. It works great. I’m doing it right now.” He wasn’t buying it.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

On the AT - South Arm Road to Bemis Mtn Lean-to, ME

June 3, 2007 | Miles: 8.7
Start: South Arm Road
End: Bemis Mountain Lean-to
We had planned to do the Franconia Ridge this 3-day weekend, but due to forecasts for thunder, lightening, wind and rain, we thought another option might be best… So, we thought that this Maine section would be a good one. We called Earl at the Cabin in Andover on Saturday night, and arranged for him to shuttle us from our end point at Rt. 4, Rangeley back to the start at South Arm Road. During the whole 1 1/2 hour ride, Earl kept us amused with stories of hiking and hikers, as well as little bits of trivia. We also saw some white lady slippers on the back roads. Cool! We started off at 10am, and although we had a few views on the steep climb up Old Blue, things quickly clouded over and we were in the fog and mist for the rest of the afternoon. The woods had a Tolkien quality to them, very rugged, old and moss covered. And things were very wet and slippery, with the wet rocks and roots making for some rough, slow going. Thrown in were a few blowdowns to make life interesting too, of course :-) And lots of moose poop! We finally made it to Bemis Mountain Lean-to after 6 hours, to find three guys holed up there out of the mist and rain. Bookworm was on a NOBO hike, but he started in October! Now that’s a different way to do a thru! And Stickman and Faithful had just started out there hike, heading north to Katahdin and then flopping back south from Andover. Inexperienced, but seem to have good energy. We’ll be thinking of them as they head along the trail! It was an early night in the bag for us, as it was pretty chilly!
We saw lots of spring flowers on the way- trillium, goldthread, trout lilies, blue bead lilies, violets, starflowers, wild sasparilla and bunchberries.

Earl is the man. Who’s Earl. Earl owns and runs the Cabin in Andover, ME, and he agreed to shuttle us from our car at the end in Rangeley to the start of our hike on South Arm Road. (Oh yeah, we planned to hike from Franconia Notch to Crawford Notch, but forecast of rain, lightning, death and destruction changed our plans.) Earl told us stories the whole time, and it was great. Then we climb up Old Blue. Old Blue flat out brings it. Steep climb. And, we were climbing into the clouds. It never really rained on us, but it was very wet, soggy and misty all day long. Earl warned us about blowdowns, but we saw very few until we saw a lot. From Elephant Mountain (or near it, anyway) to the Bemis Stream Trail, the blowdowns were crazy. Up, over, around, through. You name it. We climbed Mt. Bemis, but didn’t bother with the viewpoint…since we were in a cloud. Maybe there were other views. No idea. See aforementioned cloud. We rolled into Bemis Mountain Lean-to at about 4:00, and there were already 3 in-residence. Bookworm, an ’06-’07 thruhiker who started in October of ’06, took two months off, and now is only a couple weeks from Katahdin. Good stuff. The other two, Stickman and Faithful, who are ’07 southbounders who are doing a northbound section to start just to get rolling. They’re going from Andover to Katahdin, and then they’ll head south. Stickman just turned 50 and has been dreaming of hiking the AT since he first heard of it at age 15. Faithful just turned 21 and is very, very quiet, but he did try to set the shelter on fire. He wasn’t quite sure how to use his stove. They are very green, but happy to be on the trail We talked to them a ton about our AT experience, and we wish them all the best. Hopefully, they’ll take some of our advice, especially since, like most new hikers, they are carrying way, way, way too much stuff. All in all, a great day on the trail, but I must admit, I was pretty tired by the time we got to the shelter. It was nice to curl up in the bag.

Monday, May 28, 2007

On the AT - Rt. 112, Kinsman Notch to Franconia Notch, NH

May 28, 2007 | Miles: 7.5
Start: Rt. 112, Kinsman Notch
End: Eliza Brook Shelter
After pouring rain last night, things cleared up pretty well! We had beautiful blue skies and a nice breeze to keep things cool. The spring flowers were everywhere! Violets, trout lilies, painted and purple trillium, the blue beads were starting to flower, bunchberry, star flowers, wild oats, bluets, the hobblebush were blooming and the woods were nice and green! The views from Mt. Wolf were nice, with Franconia Notch in clear view. The trail itself was rough—lots of rocks, roots and many blowdowns made for slow going all day long. The 7.5 miles took us 5 hours, but we made it to Eliza Brook Shelter before 3pm. What a nice spot! The Brook was running well—don’t we wish all water sources were like that! There was one other hiker at the shelter—“GG,” a great grandmother attempting to finish her hike of the AT—good for her!—who we hung out with until about 6pm when the bugs got too bad. Then into the tent we went, and to sleep EARLY! We should get 12 hours of sleep every night J Two older gentlemen rolled into the shelter around 8pm, but we were already half asleep…

First backpack of the season and real test of the old bones. OK, maybe not that old, but in words of Indiana Jones: “It’s not the years. It’s the mileage.” Short story: some grouchiness in my right knee of late. My plan for the day was to just take it slow, which is tough to do with Danielle cracking the whip, but she was cool with just moseying. The climb out of Kinsman Notch is a good way to wake up, and it was humid…therefore, I was soggy. Nothing of great interest to report from the climb up Mt. Wolf. Overall, it’s a pleasant journey, and a hike I wanted to do for a while. It’s definitely worth it to take the side trail to the view. The trail after Mt. Wolf down to the junction with the Reel Brook Trail…well, it sucks. Down, then up, then down, rocky, puddish, more rocky, no flow, no rhythm, just not that fun. Plus, along the whole way there were blowdowns a plenty…should have carried a chainsaw and a team of horses to pull out the logs. Eliza Brook Shelter is a really nice spot. It was just us and a 70 year-old woman, GG, section hiking the AT. She seemed really happy to see us to have someone to share the evening. But the evening didn’t last long as the black flies were overly friendly, so we climbed in the tent about 6:30. So, we decided to just go to sleep. Ah, life on the trail. Best of all, no pain in my knee today, just general fatigue from, you know, walking.

May 29, 2007 | Miles: 8.9
Start: Eliza Brook Shelter
End: Franconia Notch Bikepath
Amazing how early you can get up if you’ve gone to bed at 6pm :-) We were all packed up and on the trail by 7:30, but of course, as always with us, everyone else managed to get out of the shelter before us! Beat again… The trail wound up and along Eliza Brook, treating us to some wonderful cascades and the nice sound of water for a while. Then, it was up, up, up. Again, the trail was rough, and there were a lot of blowdowns. Only a few sections of snow, but nothing much. Wingnut wasn’t kidding about his description of the ascent/descent of South Kinsman involving many rock scrambles! Finally caught up with the pair of gentlemen staying at the shelter. One of them started his thru-hike February 26 and was planning to finish on Katahdin by June 17. Wow! Impressive… After a steep, wet descent of North Kinsman, we had lunch by a nice stream on Fishin’ Jimmy Trail and finally made it down to Lonesome Lake, where we were treated to gorgeous views of Franconia Ridge! The final 3 miles were a breeze, and we made it to the car in good time. After a stop for brownie sundaes in Lincoln, we made it home in time to shower, get groceries and be eating pizza by 7:30pm! Not bad… All in all, a wonderful weekend!

Early to bed, early to rise to start this entry with a cliché. Cloudy and cool start at 7:30, but the trail along Eliza Brook is beautiful. The trail follows the brook for a couple miles up the side of South Kinsman…really nice. Couple grouchy blowdowns along the way, and then it gets steep. This trail is not messing around. We caught up with GG not far from the South Kinsman summit. She was moving pretty slowly but was still in good spirits. I was very impressed. The clouds had almost lifted by the time we hit South Kinsman. Enough to look sunny, but still kind of in the clouds. The wind was movin’, so we didn’t linger. The section between South and North Kinsman is your typical high, wooded ridge in the Whites…in other words, it’s beautiful and pretty much my favorite type of hiking. On top of North Kinsman, we met up with a duo, one out for a couple days, the other had started in Georgia on Feb. 16. Dude is movin’. Good bet he’s staying at Garfield Ridge tonight. The sun was full out now, and the wind had died so we chatted with them a bit before moving on. The trail down North Kinsman is the trail down North Kinsman. Rocky and rough. It doesn’t get much easier on the Fishin’ Jimmy Trail although psychologically, it feels like it should. Oh yeah, my knee has felt great the whole time. Let’s see…beautiful view at Lonesome Lake, sunny along Cascade Brook, eventually made it to Route 93. A great hike on the AT in NH. (The walk on the Franconia Bike Path to our car at the Flume Visitor Center wasn’t great, but that mile doesn’t really “count.”) No snow to speak of anywhere along any of these trails. The dominant features were blowdowns and trilliums—take the good with the bad. The trails are very wet and muddy, but it’s May in the Whites.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

On the AT - West Hartford to Connecticut River, VT/NH line

April 29, 2007 | Miles: 9.3
Start: VT 14, West Hartford
End: Connecticut River, VT/NH border
A “cloudy bright” day on the trail, with scattered showers.
The day managed to be better weather-wise than the soggy drive over would have indicated, which was good! Ryan was ready for mutiny when I woke him up at 6:00am, and a super rainy, muddy day on the trail wouldn’t have made things any better! We parked our car in Hanover, and Steve from Apex Shuttles picked us up to take us to the start in West Hartford. What a nice guy, and even better that we didn’t have to drive two cars over.
The trail was nice and mellow, winding through the open woods of Vermont, and relatively dry. The hillsides were starting to come alive with the spring wildflowers—rue anemone, trout lilies and trillium just starting to bud, yellow violets—and with wildlife as well. We saw several turkeys, a woodpecker, chickadees and nuthatches, my first two salamanders of the season (OK, they're really red efts), as well as a big owl silently gliding by. Very cool. We had lunch at Happy Hill Shelter (what a great name!) and continued our wander through the woods, finally ending with a road walk through Norwich, VT, under I-91 and back to the car. A quick hike too—6 hours of driving for 4 hours of hiking :-) But another good day on the trail… it’s good to be out!

Misty, drizzly, seemed like it wanted to clear.
Brief synopsis: Misty, cloudy day. Mellow hike, couple minor ups and downs. Lots of bird and flower sections, which I’m sure Danielle has chronicled. Overall: a great day.
Few more details: Section hiking is kind of a pain. It’s so much easier to keep heading north…guess I shouldn’t have hurt my back in ’05. But there are plenty of great folks out there who can help with rides. So, only one car today, and one ride.
Other than that, my knee felt pretty good today. It didn’t feel good all week, so I was pretty skeptical. But it held up great. It only seems to hurt walking on flat. Who knows? More stretching and more exercises during the week, so Danielle can continue her quest to kill me.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

On the AT - VT/NH border to Lyme-Dorchester Road, NH

April 22, 2007 | Miles: 8.9
Start: Connecticut River, VT/NH border
End: Three Mile Road
Our first foray on the AT this year. With the snow from the recent Nor’Easter up in the Whites, I figured we might have better luck over near Hanover, where the trail is at lower elevations. And I was right. No real snow to speak of. Of course, we had the whole gamut of trail conditions…You name it... we had it... wet, dry, muddy, mud with ice underneath, icy, snowy patches, swampy, little blowdowns, big blowdowns, even bigger blowdowns and a stretch of total devastation right after Trescott Road, where the blowdowns were continual for approx. 200 yards or more. It was truly amazing how many trees were blocking the trail. What should have taken 3 minutes took 45 instead. But despite that, it was a great day to be out. Bright and sunny, and the temps were in the 70s! It felt like summer instead of mid-April :-) The trail was easy to follow through town, where all the students were out enjoying the sun on the Dartmouth quad, and the trail was pretty mellow all day, going through a wide range of forest. No wildflowers out yet, but some trout lily leaves were poking up through the leaf litter near Three Mile Road. Spring has arrived!

Two things you need to know: 1. Danielle is trying to kill me, and 2. I have an impinged infrapatellar fat pad in my right knee. Second one first: After thinking for a few years that I have a problem with my IT band, I’ve finally confirmed that it is indeed my fat pad that is the issue. It’s just what it sounds like. It’s there to keep the bones from rubbing together. Mine just gets pinched by my knee cap against my femur (I think) from time to time. Short story: It’s a shooting pain on the outside of my right knee. Now the first point: Danielle keep dragging me outside in all weather in all seasons. I really think she’s trying to kill me.
Anyway, today was our first time back on the AT since last year, and we’re hoping to cover a lot of miles this year. This first weekend was a test of my knee. Overall, it held up pretty well today. A little pain towards the end of the day, but not as bad as I’ve felt it in the past. So hopefully my exercises are paying off.
Today was all about blowdowns. The Nor’easter last week did some major damage. The trail maintainers haven’t been out yet so we were dodging, ducking dipping, diving and dodging all over the place, Once section was so bad, it may just be easier to reroute the trail.
All in all, a nice hike to start the season.

April 23, 2007 | Miles: 9.2
Start: Three Mile Road
End: Lyme-Dorchester Road
After a yummy meal at Lui Lui’s in Lebanon and a good sleep at the Econo Lodge in White River Junction, we hit the hip coffee shop in Hanover for a quick breakfast, and headed back to Three Mile Road. Ryan’s knee was not feeling great, and we weren’t quite sure how far we’d get, but we decided to give it a go and headed up to South Moose Mountain. His knee held in there, and we tromped through the mud and water along the trail up to the summit. Nice views from the top. The trail was a bit snowy as we wandered down to Moose Mountain Shelter, where we took a short break for stretching. Nice spot! Saw a few clumps of wood sorrel as we descended from North Moose Mountain, their flowers pushing up through the leaves. Our first spring flowers! Big descent off North Moose, and then another big, long, steep climb up Holts Ledge, which left us winded! And boy was it hot out again! My car was reading in the 80s on the way home. Holts Ledge is a peregrine falcon nesting spot, so we couldn’t get close to the edge. Managed to miss the left-hand turn of the AT off the ledges, and instead took a small tour of the top of the Skiway :-) A steep descent, and back to the car by 3:30.

One thing I failed to mention from yesterday was the mud. In retrospect, that’s not a big deal because it was much worse today. My boots are completely caked with goo. The trail right now is really a mixed bag: dry, mud, more mud, muddy water, clear water, snow, muddy mud, sucking mud and MUD. But, hey, it’s April.
My legs were definitely tired from yesterday, and my knee was grouchy from the beginning. I went back to my trusty knee brace today, and it worked really well. The brace isn’t specifically designed to relive the pain for my condition, but it works pretty well. The best part is that I was able to complete the hike. Today was the hottest day so far this year. Easily into the 80’s. I nearly melted on one of the climbs. I don’t really want to know what thruhikers think of the climb, because they probably don’t even remember it. But, I thought about sitting in the middle of the trail and waiting for the wood nymphs to carry me away.
Despite the blood, sweat and mud, it was a great two days on the trail. Looking forward to more of Danielle’s attempts to kill me in the coming months.