Sunday, August 31, 2008

Snowman Says: On the AT - Caribou Valley Road to Stratton

August 31, 2008 | Miles: 8.2 (plus 6.1 non-AT miles)
Start: Caribou Valley Road
End: Rt. 27, Stratton

Well, perhaps that's not the correct starting point. We started and finished in the same spot. We decided to save the driving time and save the gas and just take one car. So, we added a fair amount of mileage, but the additional miles were either on Rt. 27 or on Caribou Valley Road, so they were easy. We ran some of it. We walked some of it. It took us just about 1:15 to reach the AT.

In short, this was a great hike. Even the road parts. The AT goes over both South and North Crocker, but the views are limited. The best views were on the climb up to South Crocker. But, despite the lack of views, the trail itself is very pretty. We really enjoyed it. Part of that was due to the fact that the treadway was fairly mellow. And drier. Conditions were much drier than they had been on our most recent hikes. It was nice to complete the day with dry feet. It's a long descent from North Crocker to Rt. 27, but we moved along pretty quickly. The 14.3-mile loop only took us just over 5 hours. Like I said, a great hike.

On the AT - Caribou Valley Road to Stratton

August 31, 2008 | Miles: 8.2 (plus 6.1 non-AT miles)
Start: Caribou Valley Road
End: Rt. 27, Stratton

Photos here

It was another early wake-up call, and we were on the road by 6:15 am. We arrived at the parking lot on Rt. 27 around 8:45 and set out two coolers with some trail magic for any passing northbound thru-hikers. Then we got all geared up, and at 9:05 am, headed out jogging down Rt. 27. The plan was to do this section with only one car, meaning we would run up Rt. 27, turn onto Caribou Valley Road and then run the 4.5 miles to the AT trail crossing. Snowman had thought the road run was 0.8 miles, but when we measured it, it turned out to be 1.6 miles. Caribou Valley Road is a logging road that goes into the Caribou Valley, and is an access point for several of Maine's 4000 footers as well as the AT. It's a dirt road in decent shape, but it is pretty much all uphill. We made it about 2.5 miles down the road before I had a short outburst; I was feeling tired already and the road just seemed to keep going up and up and up. So, from there, we walked. That was much better. There were some nice views of Sugarloaf, and a lot of pearly everlasting and black eyed susans along the side of the road. All in all, a pretty good way to start off a hike. These initial 6.1 non-AT miles took us 1:10, and we headed onto the AT at 10:15 am.

The trail started climbing immediately up South Crocker Mountain. My legs were definitely feeling the effects of this past week's running, but I did my best to keep moving along at a good pace. The woods were very pretty, as all the late summer/early autumn berries were out - red bunchberries, blush red hobblebush berries, shiny blue bead berries, some late summer blueberries and the bright red orbs on the trillium plants. About halfway up South Crocker, we hit an open area where we had nice views out into the cirque, and over towards the Bigelows. Not to mention some great blueberry picking! From there, a stiff climb and some additional meandering to the summit. The breeze was blowing pretty stiffly at the top and after all the sweating we had done on the way up, I was a bit chilled. So we didn't stay long and continued on.

We stopped for lunch in the col between South and North Crocker; I was cold enough to put on my raincoat and keep it on for the climb up North. North didn't have much of a view, so after a brief stop at the summit and a quick chat with a fellow hiker, we headed down. 5.2 miles to go. I am typically slower on the downhills than the uphills, but Snowman had to wait a bit longer for me today, as I just didn't have much juice left in my legs. About halfway down, he had stopped to stretch and when I met up with him, I said "I'm feeling great! And my legs are in rebellion." I really was feeling pretty happy, and not in a bad mood at all, but my legs were tired and sore and just didn't want to move quickly. Still, overall, this was a really good and relatively easy hike. I would do this section again. There were some nice views, the woods were pretty, the treadway was pretty soft and mellow. Of course there were some rocks and the requisite roots, but overall it was how you would think hiking through the woods should be: soft dirt, leaves, pine needles. The woods were dry and there weren't any major stream crossings. Pretty nice.

We hit the parking lot at 2:15 pm, not too shabby for 14.3 miles on a tired pair of legs!

Only a few of the snacks and drinks we had left were gone, but we'll be back next weekend and we'll be sure to bring back the goodies for the hikers.

Flora and fauna notes: Indian pipe, bunchberries, blueberries, hobblebush, some orange and yellow maple leaves carpeting the trail in spots; lots of mushrooms. A few juncos calling and flitting about. Heard the call of a pileated woodpecker as we headed up South Crocker and saw it fly overhead - very cool!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Day with the Trail Monsters

After a bright and early wake-up at 5:30am, we headed over to Bradbury to meet up with Ian, Emma and the Trail Monsters for a 7am run in the park. A good size group was gathered, and after quick introductions, we headed off to do the 12-mile Bradbury Bruiser course. I haven't run with such a big group in years, aside from in races, and it was sort of a funny experience to head off into the woods in a long, single file chain out into the singletrack. Snowman and I were near the front, and had fun chatting with Joe, a local high school xc ski coach, for a while. When not talking, I enjoyed listening in on the conversations and jokes going on around me. Time flew by rather quickly, as the combination of keeping up with the group, trying not to trip, chatting, listening, etc kept things interesting. At 6 miles, several people turned off, and the rest of us headed up the Snowmobile trail. The group shifted slightly, with Ian and Snowman up front, and me next to Emma. I enjoyed talking to her, as although I feel like I know both she and Ian a bit through their blog, I really had only met her in person earlier this month at the Breaker race!

I felt pretty good during the run, although as we wound through the "O" trail in the final 2.5 miles of the course, I started to get a bit tired. The "O" trail is akin to a long intestine or serpentine snake as it winds around and around, with a lot of mileage fit into a small amount of land. We finished the run in 2:13. Ian, Emma and a few others headed out for another loop, but I was happy to be done. With this run, I finished the week at 44 miles, the highest mileage I've had in a long time!

We headed home for a big brunch, and then down to Portland. Ian and Emma had invited us and a group of Trail Monsters to their house for snacks and drinks in the afternoon. We made a few stops along the way and finally arrived around 3:30, with the party in full swing. It was great to meet some of the other Trail Monsters - Mindy, Chuck and Katy, Erik - who we've only known through their blogs so far, as well as to have a chance to catch up a bit more with Jamie and Ian and Emma, and meet a few other fellow runners. I had been a bit apprehensive before heading over, as sometimes I'm not the best in groups of people, but I really had a nice afternoon, eating, drinking and talking with everyone. All in all, a great day, and a good time hanging out with the Trail Monsters!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Change of Plans

OK. So, we all know it's good to be flexible. But as many of you know, I like to have things scheduled out. According to the schedule, we are supposed to be hiking from Rangeley to Stratton this coming weekend. We already bailed on this section once. And we have two, count 'em, two weekends to do this section if we want to hike it before we start our vacation hike of the 100 Mile Wilderness and Katahdin. I do not want to have any sections remaining when we head into the Wilderness. When we reach Katahdin, I want to be done. I mean that in a good way, but I want Katahdin to be our last steps of this AT hike.

That being said, Snowman is having a bit of a meltdown. I want, and need, him to be healthy. I want, and need, him to be happy. But I need us to finish Rangeley to Stratton. So, I put my planning skills to work, and came up with four options. 1) Continue on with the set plan, and do Rangeley to Stratton this weekend; 2) Stay home this weekend and do Rangeley to Stratton next weekend; 3) Stay home Saturday, run in the morning with the Trail Monsters at Bradbury, then go up and hike the Crockers from Caribou Valley Road (part of the Rangeley to Stratton section which is doable as a day hike) as a day hike on Sunday (8.2 miles). Then next weekend, either 1a) stay home one day and hike Rangeley to Caribou Valley Road as a really long day hike (24 miles) or 1b) do Rangeley to Caribou Valley Road as a two-day backpack; or 4) do this section after our 100 Mile Wilderness/Katahdin hike.

I do not want to do #4.

I think #1 would make Snowman hate me, hate backpacking, get hurt, get angry and be super grouchy. #2 has the potential to do the same.

So, that leaves us with #3. #3 means a less stressed out Snowman, a chance for some relaxation, and the chance for us to get this section done. It does have the downside: no time for a long run next weekend, as I don't think it would be smart to do a 22 mile run and then a 24 mile hike the next day if we choose to do the day hike, and of course if we're out backpacking I'll be hiking both days. But that's OK. It will all work out. I'll either get in a 15 mile run as a compromise, or make an attempt to do 20 miles one day before work (want to take bets on that one?! That means a 5am start at least!)

So, yet again, a change of plans. Just to keep things interesting :-)

More Raymond Road

I guess Raymond Road is turning into one of my "regular" running routes. This is the third time this month I've run it. Sort of frightening, but in a good way, that an 8-mile loop is turning out to be a "regular" run, but I guess that's what happens when you're training for a marathon. The funny thing is that I've also managed to consistently run 1:07:something each time I've run this route. Who knows? But as Snowman always says, I seem to just have one pace, so maybe I shouldn't be too surprised at this.

Anyway, after sleeping in yesterday and taking the day off from running, and going to bed early yet again last night, I'm feeling a bit less tired. Amazing how doing one long run tires me out! How do all you crazy (and I mean that in a good way, of course!) ultra runners do it? Jamie? Ian? I suppose it's all what your body gets used to. I also think it is much harder on the body to run a long run on the roads than on the trails. The next marathon is going to have to be a trail marathon! Perhaps the Stone Cat in 2009?! OK, I'm getting a bit ahead of myself, I know... I still have to make it through MDI... but it's always fun to ponder the next adventure :-)

Flora and fauna notes for today: Saw 6 turkeys crossing the road on Raymond. Other than that, lots of sparrows flitting around, and a few of the maples are beginning to turn. Fall is on its way!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Feels like Fall!

After getting Snowman out the door to head to work in NH, I embarked upon my list of errands and chores. Since I worked Sunday, I had today off instead. Unfortunately, Snowman had to work, but it left me with a day to get things done. I paid bills, went to the transfer station with the recycling, dropped off dry cleaning, hit the pet store and the drug store. I cleaned the house and did some laundry. I did some organizing of paperwork that needed to be done. In short, all those silly little tasks that are easy to put off, but that just need to be done.

In between all this, I managed to get in a nice, easy 5 mile run in the Commons. It was bright and sunny out with a good breeze blowing. The air was crisp and cool. It felt a bit like fall. Woohoo! Fall is my favorite season. The bugs are gone, it's typically bright and sunny, there's not much humidity, the air is cool at night but warm during the day. What a great time of year. And amazingly, that time is upon us.

I definitely felt tired during the run, but I kept the pace mellow and just enjoyed being out in the woods. I figured getting some blood flowing through my tight legs would be a good thing. Besides, it was nice to not have to rush out of bed to run before work, but to enjoy a good run mid-morning.

And now, with my chores done and run complete, I have the rest of the afternoon to sit and relax. Can't complain about that!

Monday, August 25, 2008

19 Miles with Snowman

Well, that was painful.

Here's the route we took this morning as we embarked on our 3-hour, 19-mile run (the option to embed the map isn't working for some reason, so you'll have click on the link to see it instead). Snowman spent a while working on the route, and it seemed like a good way to run some familiar roads, explore some new terrain and get in some good hills.

After a good night's sleep last night (yes, I'm old and was in bed by 9pm), we headed out from the Bowdoin field house around 10:15am. There was supposed to be a 50% chance of showers, but instead it was nice and overcast early on and as the morning wore on, things just got brighter and warmer. The route took us out over familiar terrain for the first 11 miles, and we enjoyed the quiet roads of Pennellville and Rossmore as we ran along. It was low tide at Maquiot Bay and the wind was coming off the water. As always, a nice view. We hit Pleasant Hill, and turned left out to the junction with Highland Road.

From here, we turned right onto Highland, whereas on previous runs we've always turned left at this road. We were into new territory. It was around this point that things started to really warm up and we were out in the sun. We were also climbing some pretty decent hills. Not a good combination. Ugh. Highland eventually dropped us out onto Rt. 1, which we ran along for a short while before turning onto Grant Road. Another big hill. Man, I was getting tired. My legs were also getting pretty tight. Then onto Hillside, complete with a few more hills, and Greenwood, which may have been worse as it was completely straight and it seemed we were going nowhere fast.

As we neared Church Street, I knew we were close to the end, with 3 or so miles to go. Instead of taking the easy way back into town on McKeen, we turned right on Church and headed up Woodside. Another hill. Snowman took the lead here, as I struggled to keep up with him. Then finally, our second junction with Pleasant Hill and the last 2.5 miles. As we started down the hill near Crystal Spring Farm, it was Snowman's turn to struggle. I figured he would run through it, as I had. But instead, he told me to go on ahead, and in turn I urged him to keep up. I tried to slow the pace so he could stay with me, but he wasn't having any of it. So, I just kept chugging along. I felt badly but knew he wasn't too far behind.

I hit Coffin Street at 2:53:30 (or 9:08 per mile). I was relieved to be done. Cardiovascularly, I felt good throughout. Yes, I was breathing a bit heavy on a few of the final hills, but nothing of much concern. My legs, however, were very stiff, with my old nemesis, my right IT band/calf particularly so. I'll have to work on this. However, despite this, I had managed to keep up what I think was a decent pace to the end and felt pretty strong. I'm not saying it was a perfect long run, but all things considered I'm pretty happy. Of course, that being said, I am hobbling around like an invalid at the moment! Ah, yes, isn't running good for us?!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Am I Ready?

I keep wondering, am I nuts? Will I be ready to run the MDI Marathon? Have I been running enough? I know I can run a marathon. I did one in October of 2006. I ran under 4 hours. But, MDI is not a flat marathon like the Maine Marathon. It is a tough, hilly course. So, the question is really not can I run the marathon... It is how much suffering will there be? How fast will I be able to run? Will I be happy with my performance? Will Snowman kick my ass and finish way ahead of me? (Yes, this last one should not matter, but I can't help but think it.)

When I compare my 2006 training log with this year's, there is a marked difference. The summer of 2006 was comprised almost solely of running entries. Snowman was injured and we did hardly any hiking, 60 miles to be exact. This year's book is much more of a mixed bag of running and hiking entries. In 2006, my running mileage was therefore much higher than this year's running mileage. But I think the hiking can only help. Many of our hikes this summer have been long endurance hikes, with some trail running thrown into the mix. These hikes must count for something. In 2006 I did not do a ton of long runs. My longest were 16.75 and 20. This year I have an 18, 20 and 22 planned. Assuming I get them in, I think doing three solid long runs will help. However, the longest run I've done so far was 15 miles in mid-July. That was a while ago. But then again, this year I also feel like I have a much broader, stronger base of mid-range runs (10-12 miles, with two 9-mile trail races in the mix too) under my belt. On the flip side, 12 miles only gets me approx. 1:50 into the race. After that, there are miles to go before I can sleep.

As you can see, I am of two minds (or maybe more!). Hopefully tomorrow's run - a 19-miler with Snowman - will be a good step in the right direction for my training and make me feel a bit more prepared and confident. You'll just have to check back in tomorrow to see how it goes :-)

John Hiatt and Sleeping In

Snowman and I headed to Freeport last night, to catch John Hiatt performing in the LLBean Summer Concert Series. They set up a stage in the middle of the LLBean retail complex and all sorts of singers come to play throughout the summer. And best of all, it's free! Last year, Nate, Shannon, Snowman and I went to watch John Hiatt and Shawn Colvin. However, after one song by Shawn Colvin, it started to thunder and lightening and they hustled her off the stage. As it didn't seem too bad, and it didn't start to downpour, so we, and many others, hung around, hoping they would get the musicians back out on stage. It never happened. We left, unfulfilled. So, we came back this year in the hopes that we would get to actually hear John Hiatt sing. The weather cooperated and it was a beautiful evening.

We didn't arrive until around 6:45pm, by which time all the prime spots had been taken up, so we set up our chairs towards the back, with the hopes that we would still be able to see once Hiatt got on stage. We ate our sandwiches and people watched. We noticed my friend, George, from the Bradbury Breaker, sitting farther back with his wife on the bleachers near the big screen projector, but didn't recognize anyone else. At 7:30pm, the opening act, Graham Isaacson, came on stage. We couldn't see a thing. So, off I went to say hi to George, and check out how things would be back there. Much better! We could actually see Isaacson's head over the crowd, and of course, got full view on the big screen. We moved back, and sat down with George and his wife Anne. They are a super nice couple, and we had fun chatting.

Hiatt finally came on around 8:30pm, after what seemed like a long wait between Isaacson's last song and his first, but his show didn't disappoint. He played for two hours. Cool! Lots of old favorites and some of his new songs, as well as lots of funny banter in between. He didn't play "Your Dad Did," which I love for the lyrics, "But all hands fold as the two year old says grace. She says help the starving children to get well, but let my brother's hamster burn in hell." For some reason this just cracks me up. But regardless, he played a lot of good music and it was a great time!

Anyway, we didn't get to bed until 11:30pm or so, which is late for us old folk :-)

Which meant that this morning when the alarm went off at 6am I didn't get up. I did finally get up around 6:30, threw on my running clothes, went downstairs, started to eat, stretch, etc, pretty much all in a daze. I realized there was no sound from upstairs, and went to check on Snowman. He was still out. What I should have done was prodded him awake then and there. Or gone for a run myself. But what I did instead was crawl back into bed next to him and lie down, intending to stay there for a minute or two before I shook him awake. The next thing I knew it was 7:45 and time to get up, and organized so we could feed Nate and Shannon's cats and get up to the gallery. Crap. So much for a 5-mile run this morning. I guess we were tired.

Friday, August 22, 2008

5-Miler with Snowman

Snowman was on the same schedule as me today, and so was up for the second morning in a row at 6am to run. Miracle of all miracles :-) We headed out onto the powerlines for the 5.25 mile out-and-back. Snowman likes to ease into his runs, especially when they are early in the morning, so I tried to keep the pace mellow until he woke up! It was yet another nice morning, and good to be out. Plus, it was nice to catch up with Snowman after he'd been away at work for a few days.
Other than that, the run was pretty uneventful and my calves felt loose, thanks to a good massage by Snowman last night!

Tomorrow is a day off from running, so hopefully I might even sleep in a bit, if Ronnie the cat lets me :-)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Birds, Birds and More Birds

This morning's run was all about the birds. I guess when you're out on a 12.5 mile loop which winds through country fields, by the ocean and along several salt water marshes, you're bound to see a variety of wildlife, and today didn't disappoint!

I headed out at 5:55am from the field house parking lot down Rt. 123. It was a beautiful morning, still and sunny, with temps only reading 53 degrees. Perfect running weather! I was happy that there wasn't as much traffic on 123 as the last time I ran this loop. Still, it was nice to turn off the main road and into Pennelville. I took a much needed port-a-potty break at the soccer fields (once again, thank you Town of Brunswick!), and then continued on. The sun was just beginning to hit the fields and they were covered with the morning's dew. Very pretty. I saw several phoebes, barn swallows, sparrows, one Bobolink, mourning doves, crows and a chickadee as I headed out toward Simpson's Point.

As usual, Simpson's Point offered a wonderful view, and I enjoyed the chance to look at the ocean. About 30 Canadian Geese were swimming in quiet waters. After turning around at the point, I saw 9 turkeys in the woods - 4 adults and 5 little ones. Then I heard, and saw, a Pileated Woodpecker attempting to peck away at a telephone pole. Now that's a first!

I went through 6 mile at 52 minutes. Pretty good. Now the games began. Could I keep up the pace for the second half? I wandered along Rossmore and down to Maquiot Bay, where I saw a robin and a male goldfinch. Then onto my least favorite 2 miles of the route, along Woodside to Pleasant Hill. This section is just uphill enough to tire me out. But I soldiered along, and eventually hit the junction with Pleasant Hill, where several barn swallows were swooping over the road and through the fields of Crystal Spring Farms.

The last few miles were relatively uneventful, and I pulled back into the parking lot at 1:46:30. Snowman does all sorts of fancy math to figure out his pace, but using simple division, I figured my pace was 8:30 (or there abouts). I'll take it!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sunny Day

I was lying in bed, snuggled under the covers, when I hear Snowman say, "It's 6:35, you can still get out if you get up now." So much for my anticipated 6am wake up! I really didn't want to get up. But I knew I should. So up I got, and out I went. And I'm glad I did. It was a beautiful morning. Almost fall-like. 54 degrees and crisp, with blue skies and a nice breeze. The powerlines are lined with pink, as the berries on the shrubs begin to turn.

I am still feeling a bit tired, and my calves are tight. But I hope that getting some blood flowing through them this morning will get things back to "normal," as I'm planning a 12-mile run tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Snowman Says: On the AT - Wright Trail to Grafton Notch

August 18, 2008 | Miles: 12.0 (plus 3.5 non-AT miles)
Start: Wright Trail
End: Grafton Notch

Hardest. Dayhike. Ever.
Do you really need any more than that? OK, well, it wasn't the hardest dayhike ever undertaken by humans, but we're pretty sure it was the hardest we've ever done. It was also one of the most fun. You know, in that "this is really hard, I'm exhausted, muddy, bloody and hungry, and I wish it would end" kind of way.

Fueled by Dunkin' Donuts we hit the trail at 7:30a.m.—about a hour later than planned, which was not my fault as D didn't get right up with the alarm and she needed an "unplanned break at the backcountry facilities." The first 3.5 miles of the day "didn't count" as they weren't on the AT, but the Trail doesn't always cross roads where you would like. We cruised up the 3.1 miles of the Goose Eye Trail to the summit of the West Peak of Goose Eye (one of my favorites) in about an hour and a half. Just .1 from the summit, the trail junctions with the AT and .3 miles north we reached the junction of the Wright Trail, which we had descended in a previous trip. Finally, we were picking off new terrain.

The Mahoosucs are noted to be the hardest miles of the entire AT, but they are also some of the most beautiful. The terrain all around the peaks of Goose Eye is awesome: open summits and alpine bogs. Inspired by the view, we ran along the bog bridges and flat sections. When we couldn't run, we really couldn't run: it was really nasty. Rocks, wet rocks, wet pointy rocks, wet pointy rocks on steep slopes, wet point rocks on steep slopes with alligators. You get the idea. We moved along the best we could knowing that we had a full day on our plate. We met a man, who was out for a couple days with his son, heading south who said, "You're doing all that today? I admire your zeal." In other words, he thought we were nuts.

By 12:00 we reached the infamous Mahoosuc Notch, a mile-long jumble of boulders. Half hiking trail, half maze, Mahoosuc Notch was as hard as I thought it would be, not nearly as scary, and way more fun. We went up and over and through and around the Notch in an hour and a half. It was tiring, but I had a blast. I'm not sure D had a blast, but I don't think she hated it. We definitely had the advantage of just carrying light daypacks...almost like cheating. Following the Notch is the stiff climb up the Mahoosuc Arm. Wicked steep. But, not as bad as we had heard. It also marked a momentous occasion for us. I led the climb. Yup. I passed D on really technical, rocky section and just kept going. I was waiting for her to catch me, but I got to the top first. It was a really odd feeling.

The rest of the day was more hiking. Around Speck Pond—beautiful. Up Old Speck—a mountain we'd climb a number of times from the south but never from this direction. Well, technically, we didn't climb it this time, since the true summit is .3 off the AT, and too far for us on this day...we still have the thruhiker mentally. The descent down Old Speck is 3.5 miles, but it felt like 300 today. It took forever, and my legs were pretty tired. After 6 months, we hit the bottom. I kicked off my shoes, sat in the back of the car and ate my Bacon Ranch Pringles—a well-deserved reward.

All in all, it was a great day. We had a lot of fun. It was really hard, but rewarding. In all honesty, I couldn't have done this hike last year, or in a lot of years. It's really nice to be fit enough to pull this stuff off. Really nice. Plus, D and I now have the experience to pull it off. We just know how to move quickly through the woods, when to eat, what to eat, what to carry, etc. We never would have even attempted 15+ miles through the Mahoosucs. Today, we pulled it off. Sure, it took 10+ hours, but we survived. One more weekend hike and then on to the 100 Mile Wilderness...we're getting close.

On the AT - Wright Trail to Grafton Notch

August 18, 2008 | Miles: 12.0 (plus 3.5 non-AT miles)
Start: Wright Trail
End: Grafton Notch

Photos here

I am incredibly tired. What a long day. We were up at 6am and didn't get home until 10:45pm.

I wanted to get an early start, as we were unsure what condition Success Pond Road, a logging road outside of Berlin that would lead us to the Goose Eye Trail, would be in and how long it would take us to reach the trailhead. I also knew we were in for a rather difficult day of hiking. So the plan was to start hiking by 7am. After our last experience with the Wright Trail, we decided we needed to find another way to ascend to the AT this time around. Looking at the maps, we realized we could cut off 0.9 miles of hiking if we took the Goose Eye Trail up. It was only 3.2 miles long, and put us back on the AT 0.3 miles south of the Wright Trail. Mileage that didn't "count," but still what seemed like a good plan to get us back up to the trail. We started hiking at 7:30am, a bit later than hoped but not too bad. And actually, the Goose Eye Trail was quite nice, with some mellow walking through the lower woods and then some stiff climbing up to the summit cone. We were able to power right on up. It was gorgeous out when we reached the top, with great views in all directions, a bit of sun and a good breeze.

We hit the junction with the Wright Trail, our "official" start to the day, at 9am. The trail wandered up and down several of the Goose Eye peaks, with nice stretches of high alpine bog in between. Beautiful. This is a stretch of trail I would go back to, especially on a nice day like this one where you can really enjoy the openness and all the views the peaks afford. After descending to Full Goose Shelter, the trail went up Fulling Mountain. More bogs and more bog bridges. I was walking along, chatting with Snowman. I put my right leg on a solid looking patch of grass and set my left leg down onto what I thought was the edge of it. Nope. My leg plunged down knee-deep into the muck. Thrown off balance, I lurched forward, but luckily was able to twist a bit so that I could put my hands down on the grass, and didn't go full force into the bog. I tugged at my leg. It wouldn't move! I was stuck! Sh*t! I tugged again. Nothing. I started to laugh. I was actually stuck in the mud! Luckily, after a few more tugs I was able to extricate my leg with my shoe still attached. I couldn't stop laughing. I had a mud line up to my knee. We continued on.

After a stiff descent off Fulling Mountain, we reached the southern end of the dreaded Mahoosuc Notch. This has been called the toughest mile on the AT by many. It is essentially a boulder field, where you have to go up, over, and under lots of big rocks to get through to the other side. It is then followed by a very steep ascent up the Mahooscus Arm. Snowman and I have been avoiding this section, but it had to be done. So here we were...

It was part trail and part maze. There are some huge rocks jumbled together in this section, and although there are blazes and a few directional arrows throughout, essentially you have to assess what's in front of you and figure out, do I go up and over? Around? Under? Can I go up and over? Can I get around? Is it easier to go under? Can I fit? I had a tough time on a few of the "up and overs", several times having to use all my strength to pull myself up onto the rocks, and several times needed Snowman's help to get up. At least one time, I could not get over, and had to go under, very carefully, through a rather thin and low opening in two rocks. Snowman watched, rather anxiously, from the other side. However, as I am small, I did have the advantage of not having to take my pack off on one of the other "unders" as we slithered our way through. Towards the northern end of the notch, there were several streams running between and beneath the rocks to add to the excitement. It was fun to a certain extent, but taxing, and it just went on and on and on. We finally came out on the other side an hour and a half later. We had conquered the Notch!

Then it was up the Arm, which frankly, although a steep climb and rather treacherous higher up as it ascended some wet rock ledges, was not the toughest climb we've had. However, combined with the Notch, it made for a formidable 2.6 miles, and I was starting to feel the effects of the long day. We passed Speck Pond, a very pretty spot, and from there climbed up, up, up to the junction of the AT with the Old Speck summit trail. Once again, gorgeous views. We've done Old Speck before, and by now, it was 4pm, and we still had 3.5 miles to go, down, down, down to Grafton Notch. So, we skipped the extra mileage to the summit, and continued on the AT. Although the map showed this stretch was a long, steep downhill, it lied. The trail meandered, going up and over various little bumps many more times than we would have liked, as I felt more and more tired. However, it was a pretty trail, and finally we started to make some downward progress, following a flowing stream down through the woods. We hit the parking lot at 5:45pm, after 10 hours and 15 minutes on the trail.

This was a serious day of hiking, and definitely one of the harder day hikes we've ever done. Although beautiful, hiking in Maine is rugged and rough, and well, just plain hard. However, we really lucked out with the weather, as the sun was out, it was dry, and the late day thunderstorms and hail never materialized, which made this stretch much easier and more pleasant!

We stretched a bit, changed clothes and took off down the northern end of Success Pond Road, back toward the car at the Goose Eye trailhead. Although well graded for the logging roads, and wide, it still took us about 1 hour to go the 20 miles on the road, and we were both starved by the time we stopped in Gorham at Mr. Pizza. After what seemed like a very long dinner, we were on our way home around 8:45pm. I wasn't sure I would be able to keep my eyes open. I had the window down and the radio up pretty loud. I was singing along to keep myself awake. Finally, at 10:45pm we pulled into the parking lot. Home sweet home, and bed sweet bed.

Flora and fauna notes: Mushrooms everywhere! White, red, yellow, orange, purple, brown, oh my! Lots of Indian pipe and bunchberries. Many juncos and chickadees twittering in the woods, as well as three friendly Gray Jays at Full Goose Shelter and one at Speck Pond Shelter.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Yeah Blake!

Congratulations Blake! Blake ran an awesome Olympic marathon yesterday, placing 27th as the only American woman to finish the race. NBC actually had decent coverage of the event, although we were bummed that they cut over to swimming approx. 45 seconds before Blake would have crossed the finish line. Regardless, it was a fun race to watch, and we're totally proud of Blake!

In much slower and less glamorous running news, Snowman and I got in a late afternoon run in the Commons today. We spent the morning on the couch, watching Olympics and feeling very tired. I definitely could have remained couch-bound, but Snowman motivated around 3pm and we got up and out. It actually felt like August - warm and a bit humid - but we had a good run in the woods, with me setting a relatively quick (for us!) pace. Sometimes when I'm tired, I just figure I might as well run quickly to get it over with! About 1 mile from the finish, Snowman got stung by a bee right by his ankle. Poor guy! It swelled up but he was able to finish up the run. Hopefully the baking soda paste I made for him helped a bit.

We're off to NH in a bit, to drop off one car at Grafton Notch and stay up in the Glen in preparation for an early start for our Mahoosuc Notch hike tomorrow. Should be fun (or at least interesting!).

Friday, August 15, 2008

Raymond Road Again

I was up and out for an 8-mile run on the Raymond Road loop this morning. A heavy fog was settled over the fields on Pleasant Hill Road, but things had cleared out a bit by the time I turned onto Raymond. I felt good throughout, and many thanks go to Snowman for helping me loosen up my very tight right leg last night! Didn't see much bird-wise, with the exception of seeing 5 very large turkeys hanging out by the road in the middle of someone's driveway.

This run finished out the week at 30 miles, which seems like a solid number.

Next week's plan is to continue to get in as much mileage as I can. We also plan to do a 15.5 mile hike on the AT on Monday. This hike includes the infamous Mahoosuc Notch, as well as the Mahoosuc Arm, which we've heard is just as tough. Snowman and I have been dreading this section, but as are now down to our two remaining sections aside from the 100 mile wilderness and Katahdin, it is time to tackle it! We decided to do the Notch as a long day hike, thinking that although it would likely be a rough day, it would also probably be a bit easier trying to get through it without a big heavy pack and poles to complicate matters as we climbed and went up and under the boulders in the Notch itself. The plan is to start by 7am, giving us 12 hours+ of daylight to get through it all.

In thinking about our remaining AT mileage, I can't help but be amazed that we are almost done (catastrophes aside)! Although it would have been wonderful to have finished the trail as a thru-hike in 2005, I think that in some ways, finishing it up this year may be even more of an accomplishment. What I mean by this is that it has taken a pretty awesome amount of determination, grit and perseverance to finish off the 660 miles that we had left when we stopped in Massachusetts in July 2005. We could have moved on, said forget it, we've done enough. But instead, we have managed to continue slowly knocking off the miles, despite the logistics of having to do most of the miles on weekends, when we're tired from long weeks of work, driving here, there and everywhere, coordinating shuttles, getting out on weekends when it would have been so much nicer to sit on the couch as the rain fell outside, etc. Snowman would likely say that the fact that we have continued to hike is due to my stubbornness and single-minded focus that we finish every mile, together :-) but seriously, I think it means we're pretty tough!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cool Bird Encounter

Snowman was at Frontier for an afternoon meeting, and suggested I meet him there for dinner. Yes, we had food to eat at home, but it's hard to resist Frontier's yummy food and great views. So, guess where we ate for dinner?! :-)

As we were sitting by the window, looking out at the roaring Androscoggin River, I noticed a few birds flitting back and forth between the trees between the river and the parking lot. Finally, one of them sat still in silhouette, and we realized we were watching a small flock (5 to 6 birds) of cedar waxwings. Cool! Then, even cooler, the birds flew up to the big mill windows, where many spiders had taken up residence and built webs. The birds flew in and out, snatching up spider after spider right in front of us. Wow! An up-close view of the waxwing's beautiful rosy breast and bright yellow tail edging. Gorgeous.

Mid-week Run

Was up and out early this morning for a run on the powerlines. Although this is an out-and-back run, I enjoy it, as it has a mix of mellow terrain and some good steep hills. It's definitely a good 5.25 mile run.

As I left the house, the temperature was 59 degrees and there was blue sky above. Mist was rising from the low lying areas of the powerlines and the birds were singing. Beautiful! It is so nice to see the sun after all the rain we've been having!

Parts of the trail were pretty muddy and wet, but my shoes hadn't quite dried out from Sunday so it wasn't too much of a big deal :-) I felt pretty good throughout, and my right IT band loosened up nicely as I ran along. It's been tight as of late, which happens from time to time. Hopefully with enough stretching and rolling, I can work it out.

Not much else to report...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Busy Day Off

Snowman arrived home late last night after a long, long day at work, having been up since 3am helping with their 24 hours mountain bike race, so we didn't exactly get up bright and early. I was up first, so I made us a big breakfast of homefries and eggs. Around 11am, we finally motivated and headed down to Portland.

Our first stop was the Portland Museum, where I had been wanting to see the exhibit on Georgia O'Keefe. The exhibit did feature some of her art, but it was more focused on her relationship to Stieglitz and other photographers of the era, with some neat Ansel Adams photos included. Second stop was Maine Running Company, where I got a new pair of shoes in preparation for the marathon - the Asics Nimbus. Man are they ugly! But I never said I was fashionable :-) Final stop was Sam's Club, where we loaded up on yogurt, OJ, Clif and Power Bars and other good stuff.

Then it was home for a late lunch and a quick 3-mile run before Nate and Shannon came over for an early dinner. I was feeling a bit tired and my legs definitely felt tight as we started out onto the powerlines for our run, but things loosened up a bit as we ran along. After a good dinner of sweet potato burritos, plus beet and carrot salad made by Shannon, and a green salad, and time spent catching up, we finished off the evening with a trip to Cote's for ice cream. Yum!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Bradbury Breaker

This morning was the 9-mile Bradbury Breaker, put on by Ian and the great trail group, Trail Monster Running. It was an appropriate race name, as the course took us up and down Bradbury Mountain four times total during the two laps. While the "mountain" is more of a glorified hill, it still offered plenty of pretty stiff ups and downs, which combined with the wet roots, rocks, calf-deep puddles and the numerous mud pits due to all the recent rain, made for one tough course.

However, it was also a lot of fun. It was a bit misty at the start, as Ian did his pre-race meeting with the 70 runners gathered for the run. One runner asked if, given the recent rains, there were any parts of the trail that were totally blown out. Ian matter-of-factly answered, yes. The Boundary Trail was the worst, with about 6 puddles to wade through and lots of mud. Seems to be a theme in our running/hiking these days :-)

Towards the end of the Boundary Trail on the first lap, I was caught by George, who, upon further reflection, I am sure I ran with for a bit during last year's Bradbury Bruiser. He was a cheery, upbeat guy, and I tried to stick with him as we descended down to the parking lot before the first stiff climb to the summit. I am not as confident a runner on the downhills, but I did what I could to keep close to him, and we ended up power-hiking in file up to the summit together. After the tough down and up combo, the trail mellows out a bit and winds through the woods, giving runners a chance to stretch the legs and hopefully make up some time, before going up to the summit again and down the Switchback Trail. George and I went through the start area together, in 43:52. Not too bad a first lap.

I was feeling good, and wanted to keep up the pace, but George dropped back a bit, so I was on my own. Still, it was fun to run with him for a while! Later during the second lap, I played leap-frog with another male runner, who ended up finishing about 30 seconds ahead of me. I also got passed on the last steep downhill by two other runners - damn! I have to work on my downhill running! Although the second lap was tough, I didn't suffer too much, and was able to kick it in in the last 100 yards or so, finishing in 1:29:39. Under 1:30, which is what I was hoping for. Also ended up being first in my age group (yes, there was one other 30-something female, so it wasn't by default :-) ) - which was cool. I got a gift certificate to Maine Running Company, which will go to good use tomorrow when we're down there picking up new running shoes!

I feel happy with the race. I had been concerned that feeling so tired and being so busy this week, I wouldn't have much energy, but I felt solid throughout, and it was a fun time. Thanks so much to Ian and Emma, as well as Jamie, Blaine and all the other volunteers, for making this race a good one! A great way to spend a Sunday morning! And good reason to relax on the couch watching the Olympics this afternoon :-)

And for something else fun to watch today:

I normally don't go to YouTube, but I saw this link on Views From the Top, a New England hiking site we frequent, and it seemed too cute to not post! Talk about having fun :-)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

End of the Week

I left work early yesterday to head over to my aunt Susie's house for dinner. My grandmother is staying there, and my cousin Sean, Marisa and baby Owen were coming in from Colorado for a visit. But, of course, as is usual these days with the airlines, they were delayed. While we were waiting, we all sat around, drinking wine and chatting, getting caught up on things. Amazing how we're only less than an hour away but don't have a chance to do this more often! We were just about to give up on the cousins and sit down to dinner at 8:30pm when they showed up in the doorway. Owen was all smiles, and seems to be a very happy baby. He also looks exactly like his dad! Sean and Marisa looked great, and it was fun to see them.

I stayed for another hour or so before I began the windy, backroads way home, and finally got into bed around 11pm. What I really wanted this morning was to keep sleeping, but I got up and out for an easy 4-miler in preparation for tomorrow's Bradbury Breaker. Those of us who have signed up for the race got an email from Ian, the race director, yesterday. He said the course was pretty dry when they ran it on Thursday night. In my email back to him, I said I was surprised the course was so dry given all the rain we've been having. His reply was that the course was so hilly, all the rain had just funneled off the trails! Gotta love it :-)

I end the week with 20 miles of running, once again not the world's greatest total, but when you add in our 19.9 mile day of hiking/running along the water logged AT on Monday, the total starts to look a bit more respectable.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Long Day

It's been a long day. I was on the road up to work at 5:30am. Summers are a bit crazy at work, as we hang a new show pretty much every month. This means we either meet up at the gallery early, or stay late. This month it was meet early. So, 6:00am it was. But we did get the place looking pretty nice and there are some great paintings up on the walls. Still, it's a tiring process... and after 4 hours of hanging the show, we opened the doors and the place was nuts all day long. Rainy days are like that.

I did however manage to motivate to get out for a 5-mile run right after work, hitting the Commons at 6:30pm. The motivation was in equal parts fueled by the fact that Snowman got out for a 12 mile run with friends this morning and in part by the fact that I feel the definite need to get in some mileage for this whole marathon training thing :-)

Skies were overcast, and it was a bit misty. I felt quite creaky and unenergized when I started, but loosened up a bit and enjoyed the quiet of the darkening woods. Anyway, after a 12 hour work day and an evening run, which I've never been good at, I'm feeling pretty worn out.... time for bed.... zzzzzz.....

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Raymond Road Run

Up and out on the roads at 6:02am for an 8 mile run on Raymond Road. The skies were overcast, and things were a bit misty, but I didn't get rained on. There was a nice early morning light trying to come through the clouds, and things were quiet. Not many birds out and about, but the fields along Pleasant Hill Road were buzzing with insects and peepers. Despite my right IT band being a bit tight from Monday's long hike/run and subsequent long drive, I felt really good. Kept up a good pace throughout. Had to push it a bit at the end to not slow down, but pretty happy with how the run went. 8 miles/1:07:40. And now it's off to work.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Snowman Says: On the AT - East Flagstaff Road to Caratunk

August 4, 2008 | Miles: 19.9
Start: East Flagstaff Road
End: Caratunk


20 miles of mud.

In all honesty, the majority of the details from this hike are very blurry due to the relative uniformity of the trail and the constant squish of mud and splash of water. 75% of the trail was either mud or standing/running water. It was really sloppy. Due to the conditions, this section was both completely forgettable and totally memorable. It was terrible and awesome. All in all, just another day on the AT.

After dropping car #1 and a cooler full of trail magic at the trailhead in Caratunk, we picked up a pizza and headed for Round Barn Campsite on Flagstaff Lake. Round Barn is one of the coolest spots around, and, yes, pizza is perfectly acceptable camping food.

Despite the dry evening, it rained most of the night and was still pouring at our wake up time of 6:00am. We stayed in the tent for another 45 minutes, when the rain stopped. After packing up, eating and driving to the trailhead, we hit the trail at 8:00am, about an hour later than planned/hoped. Normally, start time isn't an issue, but today we had to make it to the Kennebec River 19.6 miles away before 4:00pm in order to catch the ferry (canoe). The Kennebec is waaaay too big to ford, so the Maine Appalachian Trail Club has hired a company to ferry hikers across the river. There's even a white blaze in the bottom of the canoe!

As I mentioned, it was wet, muddy, slippery, sloppy and yuk. Due to the conditions, we weren't able to run as much of the trail as we would have liked. D and I each almost hit the deck a handful of times, but no official falls were recorded on the trip. Although D tried to kill herself twice: once slamming her shin squarely into a bog bridge and another time slipping on a rock while fording a stream. Luckily, she caught herself on a rock in the middle of the stream to avoid any actual swimming.

It was a tough day, but it was more mentally hard than physically. It rained on us, at times quite hard, for most of the morning. When, really, more rain was the last thing that the trail needed. The section between West Carry Pond and East Carry Pond was the worst. I was really getting frustrated through here. A couple times, I yelled at the rain to stop. (Didn't help.) Then, just when I was ready to crawl in a mud hole and give up, we hit a flat, level, pine needle cushioned beautiful section of trail. I yelped a WOOHOO and took off It was awesome. It was less than a half mile, but it was great. Just what I needed to pick me up, and I was good the rest of the day. In fact, the ridiculousness of the trail actually became quite comical. At times, I'd stop to try to find away around a puddle or mud pit, when suddenly D would crash right through laughing (cackling?) hysterically. After all, once you're saturated, you can't get any wetter.

The day also featured a handful of river fords because...well, why not? There was so much water out there, one of the fords wasn't even listed in the guide book or on the map. In other words, the day was just nuts.

The best news of all was that we reached the Kennebec around 3:15 with plenty of time to catch a ferry ride. Well, D rode. I paddled. Once safely on the other side, it was a quick walk back to the car and dry clothes. My feet were very happy to be out of those wet shoes. After all, they'd been wet for 7.5 hours and nearly 20 miles. Just another day on the AT.

Monday, August 4, 2008

On the AT - East Flagstaff Road to Caratunk

August 4, 2008 | Miles: 19.9
Start: East Flagstaff Road
End: Caratunk

Photos here

Today's hike actually started yesterday. With the logistics of this section, we decided to drive up to Caratunk yesterday, drop off a car (and a cooler filled with gatorade, crackers and cookies as trail magic for any thru-hikers coming through), and then drive back to East Flagstaff Road, where we set up camp at Round Barn, a great rustic camping area on the shores of Flagstaff Lake. The camp area was deserted except for one other couple. We set up our camp chairs looking out at the lake, and ate our cold pizza (purchased at a random convenience store/grill). After dinner we took a walk around, enjoyed a few shoreside blueberries, played some cards and caught the end of the sunset over the lake before calling it at a night.

It rained pretty hard during the night, and was still raining when I awoke at 6am, our designated wake-up time. So, back to sleep we went, at least until 6:45 when the rain had stopped. We quickly packed everything up, had a quick bite to eat and took off down the road to the trailhead. We were on the trail by 8am. An hour later than we had hoped, but still hopefully with enough time to make it to the Kennebec River ferry before the last shuttle across at 4pm, especially since we were traveling light.

So... the hike... Short story: it was wet. Damn wet.

The trail was a river, a mud pit, a stream, a swamp and so on. Basically, our feet were wet from the start to the finish. As was the rest of us, as it rained several times during the day too. We boogied along as best we could, running when the trail was flat and dry(ish), walking as fast as we could when things were wet, slipping and sliding around on the rocks and roots and bog bridges, splashing through the mud puddles and the streams, fording several streams. Between us, we had many slips and slides, with me winning the prize on two counts: 1) for my almost face plant into one of the rivers we were crossing. The stream was flowing with a swift current, overflowing its banks, and up to my knees. I took one wrong step, and couldn't quite right myself. Luckily, on my way down, I caught myself on a big rock, and only got the front part of me wet. A close call, but a good save! and 2) in the bruise department. On one of the many slippery bog bridges, I again, took a wrong step and slipped off the side, slamming my right shin into the side of the bridge. OW! That hurt. It also left a good mark!

The trail didn't offer any mountaintop views, but we did pass several beautiful lakes: West Carry Pond, East Carry Pond (where the trail wandered right along the pond edge, allowing us great views of the pond, a Belted Kingfisher sighting and some yummy blueberry picking), and Pierce Pond. The trail also paralleled the Pierce Pond Stream for several miles before it converged with the Kennebec, and that was quite spectacular as well, especially given the high volume of water.

We hit the Kennebec around 3:15 pm, in plenty of time. The Kennebec is one big river. It looked strong and deep, but very beautiful with tons of milkweed blooming along its banks, and even more beautiful as the ferryman was on the other side waiting for us! He canoed over to get us, and he and Snowman paddled us back across. Then a quick 0.3 miles back to the car and we were done. Hurray! 7.5 hours/19.9 miles. A solid day. Although I was tired by the end, it wasn't a super hard day, just a frustrating one, with all the water. Absolutely ridiculous.

But the best part of the day was that after being wet and muddy, we got to come home, take a shower and put on dry clothes. There are perks to this section hiking deal. And to being crazy enough to do this stretch in one day :-)

Flora and fauna report: Lots of toads and frogs; with two toads smaller than my pinkie fingernail! A pair of Belted Kingfishers on East Carry Pond; a grouse roadside on our way to the trail; Robin and Wood Thrush. Chickadees and several Red-Breasted Nuthatch around our campsite at Round Barn. Lots of Indian pipe, bunchberries, blue bead lilies and lots of yummy blueberries.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A New Plan

The weather forecast is calling for 80% chance of rain tomorrow, as well as flood watches for the area around Rangeley/Stratton. Perhaps not the best weekend to do a hike where we'll be above tree-line for a long stretch as well as fording several rivers. So, we decided to save this stretch for another weekend, and came up with a new plan.

The new plan being: run 3 miles tomorrow morning, go out for a yummy big breakfast, drive up and drop a car off in Caratunk, drive back to East Flagstaff Road and camp out at Round Barn on the shores of Flagstaff Lake tomorrow night. Then Monday morning we'll take off on the AT with our Camelbaks bright and early, and "run" the 19.9 miles from East Flagstaff Road to Caratunk.

The only catch to this trip is the ferry ride across the Kennebec River. The river is very wide and deep, and has unexpected releases of water from an upstream dam; therefore, the AT has hired a ferryman to officially transport hikers from one side to the other. Great, but... the ferry has limited hours, so we have to arrive at the river between 2pm and 4pm to get a ride across. Another hike with time constraints, but it should be a good challenge!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Soggy 3

Got up and out for a mellow 3 miles from home this morning. It was misty when I started, and as I made the turn-around in Highland Green, it began to rain. And then to pour. But at that point I was less than 15 minutes from home, so it wasn't too bad.

Today finished up the running portion of my week: 20 miles. Yes, the mileage is pretty low, considering I'm training for a marathon, but the week also includes the 27.7 miles we hiked/ran in our 2 days along the Franconia Ridge earlier this week, and will also include the 1.8 miles we're planning to hike tomorrow. So, when you look at it that way, I'd say it's been a solid week.

As for our weekend: We're leaving work early tomorrow to head to Stratton, where we will drop off a car at the end point of our hike. From there, we're getting a ride to Rangeley, where we'll hike in to the first shelter for the night. This will give us a bit of a head-start on the next 2 days of backpacking we have planned: 16.9 miles and 13.5 miles. These days will likely be a lot longer than our days last weekend, as we'll be traveling with full backpacks. We've done some of this section of the AT before, years ago, and it almost killed us. (Do you see a theme here?!) Going up and over five of the ME 4000 footers (Saddleback, Saddleback-The Horn, Sugarloaf, North and South Crocker), it is a rough and rugged section, but very beautiful. Somehow I think I'm going to be tired when we finish on Monday night :-)