Appalachian Trail Journal : Part 3 – New England

Appalachian Trail Journal  : Part 3 – New England

 

Mile Post 1444.1 ~ Mt. Aglo Lean-to

June 12 ~ The spell of sunny weather has been broken. The first rainy day in

quite some time had arrived. No complaints from me, the weather had been

exceptional, a little drizzle now and then is no problem. Today we

celebrated two milestones: two-thirds of trail is now completed, and we are

in New England. Feels odd to be back "home". Knowing that where I live is

now only a three hour drive by car from now until Maine is also a weird

feeling. But, I still have many miles and many memories to live before I am

ready to go back to my "normal" life.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1451.6 ~ Stewart Hollow Brook Lean-to

June 13 ~ Flexibility. Flexibility. Flexibility. That is how to successfully

do a thru-hike. After I picked up my maildrop, I hit the trail again. I

think Mother Nature's kitchen sink backed up, because the light drizzle

quickly turned into a torrential downpour, complete with thunder and

lightning. (Every time there is lightning, I seem to be on a ridge line.

Makes for an interesting day.) The rain was by far the most I have seen yet

on the trail. So, I thought the heck with it, I am taking an early day. It

is dry and comfortable in this shelter. My meal is rehydrating, and Hawk and

Funk just showed up. Need days like this every so often.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1461.7 ~ Pine Swamp Brook Lean-to

June 14 ~ Another lazy day, mileage wise. The terrain of Connecticut is

surprisingly rugged. Numerous ups and downs give the ole legs quite the

workout. I did not leave the shelter until 9:30 this morning. Being

somewhere dry has a certain charm. Makes it hard to go off and hike. The

rain was a steady drizzle for most of the day, but as soon as I reached this

shelter, the rain came down in buckets. Talk about great timing! It is good

to be back in New England. The numerous pines and rocky terrain give the

trail a familiar feel. I am even spotting the occasional birch tree, another

reminder that I am steadily moving North.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1481.6 ~ Riga Lean-to

June 15 ~ OK, I made my peace with the weather. Hiking in the rain is an

expected part of a thru-hike. This kind of hiking is actually relaxing in

its own way. Since you can't see anything off the ridges, you notice other

parts of the trail that normally go unnoticed. The way a particular brook

seems to run over rocks, the small flowers peeking through the pine needles

or the scent of how a forest smells when it is raining. The only thing I did

not like about today was the shelter register. Almost every entry mentions

how incredible the valley looks from the shelter, and what a beautiful

sunrise they saw. All I see is a thick wall of fog! Oh well, can't win them

all. A dry shelter is enough for tonight.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1504.6 ~ June 16

Tom Leonard Lean-to ~ A steady drizzle greeted me this morning. The thought

of dry socks and boots was a fantasy that has long been given up. The trail

was more of a stream, at some points, reaching up my calf. Crossing Sage's

Ravine was a river ford. I was admiring the beauty of the ravine, while at

the same time hoping I would not get taken away by the current. The descent

down Mt. Everett was an ordeal, the mountain had streams going down the

face, the trail was a slippery scramble for the descent. A delightful day on

the Appalachian Trail. But the sun did come out, salvation was in sight! But

the trail was still unbelievably flooded. The trail near the Housatonic

River was a swamp. I am not ashamed to say I turned around and did a road

walk. The water came up to my waist, and the blazes weren't to be found.

Call it my version of a high water route. Talking to another thru-hiker

tonight, he said he swam the trail, and that the water came over his head!

Always an adventure on the Appalachian Trail or the AS – the Appalachian

Stream.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1525.7 ~ Upper Goose Pond Cabin

June 17 ~ Massachusetts is such a nice state to hike in. Dark pine forests,

tall birch trees, little streams and several ponds. And cows with a taste

for salt. Walking through a pasture near Tyringham, I was chased by four

cows! These cows must have seen my sweaty pack, shirt and bandana and

thought "Walking salt pile!" At one point these cows were actually running

at me, and were within two feet of me when I finally reached the stile.

People wondered about bears attacking me, who would have thought I would be

chased by cows with a hankering for salt. This cabin is a sweet place. The

porch overlooks the pond – a perfect place to drink some tea on this drizzly

night.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1546.2 ~ Dalton, MA

June 18 ~ An unusual sense of "deja vu" hit me when I crossed the foot

bridge over the Massachusetts Turnpike. Driving under this bridge always

meant Mt. Greylock was not too far away, now I walked over it. An odd

feeling. Tomorrow I will be at Greylock, but this time there will be no car

parked at the trailhead, no short drive home for a hot shower and work the

following Monday. Hiking on the part of the AT I am familiar with has a

different feel on a long distance hike. The same portion of the trail was a

way to blow off steam during weekends, now it is one part of a long journey.

Wonder what the trail will feel like to me after this journey is over?-Paul

 

Mile Post 1563.1 ~ Mt. Greylock, Bascom Lodge

June 19 ~ I can't believe the view from the summit. Three hundred and sixty

degrees of pure scenery. Amazingly enough, this is the first time I have

been on the summit when it has not been fogged in. Simply incredible what I

am seeing, the sunset should be spectacular. An incredible stroke of good

luck happened today. The centennial of the Greylock reservation was being

celebrated, so the state of Massachusetts let me stay at the lodge for the

bubble. Not a bad deal – shower, bunk, and two meals, all for being at the

right place at the right time.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1576.5 ~ Seth Warner Shelter

June 20 ~ What a way to start the day, seeing the tops of the mountain peaks

jut above the clouds, then having a hearty breakfast. Life should always be

this good. Last summer, I was on this portion of the trail, excited to be

doing my first long distance hike. Now instead of the Mass/Vermont line

being the beginning of a journey, it is towards the end of one. Quite a few

"Long Trailers" are here tonight. They are excited to begin their journey,

and I am anticipating the end of mine, but not with excitement, but a sense

of realization that the great experience that this thru-hike is, will

finish. Mixed emotions at that thought.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1598.1 ~ Goddard Shelter

June 21 ~ Warm weather and the recent rain add up to one thing: swarms of

insects! Egads, the mosquitoes thought it was happy hour on my arm. The bug

repellent kept them at bay, but they still swarmed around my head while

flies tried to imbed themselves in my hair. Luckily my handy, dandy bandana

kept them out. If I thought the insects were bad while hiking, they were by

far worse at the shelter area. Five minutes of sitting in the shelter

convinced me to tent it. The no-see-ums were unbelievably horrid. Cooking

dinner was interesting, I think there was some extra protein in my meal

tonight. The three pounds my tent weighs was worth it. The flies and

no-see-ums are all over the mesh of my tent. If that mesh were not there,

they would be on me! Now I can get a good nights sleep and dream about

swimming at Stratton Pond tomorrow evening.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1617.6 ~ Vondell Shelter

June 22 ~ Today was an excellent day for one big reason: Stratton Pond!

Taking a dip in a cool pond is just the cure for a muggy June day. Eating

dinner while looking out at the pond was also a relaxing way to unwind. The

shelter was full, but the tent came in handy again tonight. At five o'clock,

two women came by without a tent, or even a tarp. Since the shelter was

full, they had no choice but to push on to the next shelter, five miles up

the trail. There is a lesson in this incident. Sleep should come easy again

tonight. A gentle rain is tapping. After a day of hiking, a little swimming,

and dinner by the water, the sound of rain will be the fitting end to a good

day on the AT.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1637.8 ~ Peru Peak Shelter

June 23 ~ Spruce Peak Shelter is a classy place. An enclosed cabin, with

bunks and a wood stove, and a porch with chairs that are very inviting. A

little too inviting, I spent two hours sitting there and having a little

"RnR". Funny how fast time goes by when you are just doing nothing but

relaxing. The terrain is getting more difficult. I had forgotten what it is

like to climb up steep grades, then going down the other side of thye

mountain that is also steep. The knees are the best reminder of how the

terrain is more difficult!-Paul

 

Mile Post 1652.5 ~ Greenwall Shelter

June 24 ~ A problem at this point in the trail is that I am now in excellent

shape. Physically I can do day after day of big miles and/or little days.

That is a problem because the mental aspect of hiking goes by the wayside.

The mind has to decompress, unwind a bit. All these days of getting into

camp late does not let the mind do that. I was starting to fall into a trap

that many of us thru-hikers fall into. Mileage is everything. Down in New

Jersey, it is easy to do big days. But now it is more difficult, and day

after day of doing that is not enjoyable. I had to remind myself of why I am

out here. So when the shelter was spotted at 3:30, a decision was made! Take

a few days and relax. A few big days now and then does not hurt, but do it

consistently, and the trail becomes a task. That is something that I

definitely do not want. Knowing that the next few days will be light already

has a calming effect. Time to kick back a little, I guess.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1667.2 ~ Governor Clement Shelter

June 25 ~ Another hot and hazy day that makes seeing the sights fairly

difficult. But there was a restaurant ten minutes off the trail that made

for an excellent late breakfast. Sometimes it is hard to resist the call of

these places. A good meal is a difficult thing to pass up. What was nice

about the trail today was passing through this dark grove of pines. It felt

like something out of a German folktale. Almost expected Hansel and Gretel

to be prancing down the trail looking for their breadcrumbs. Also had a

great rest at a brook. The sound of water over rocks has a mesmerizing

affect. Soaking your feet in the water while soaking up some sunshine is

certainly one of the finer things in life. Tomorrow it is a short walk to

the Inn at Long Trail. Guiness on tap is a large incentive to make the miles

fly by. Haven't had a pint of good beer for longer than I care to think

about. There are just some luxuries that are difficult to do without. And a

good beer on tap is one of them.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1676.6 ~ Inn at Long Trail

June 26 ~ Nasty downpours at night again made the trail a small stream. No

matter, I could hear the sound of a Guinness being poured. Let it rain, let

it hail, let the mosquitoes bite – having a beer of the highest caliber

waiting for me makes any climb or weather seem like minor obstacles. It is

easy to like this place. It is almost as if someone took a piece of Dublin

and put it in Vermont. Having a bowl of stew while drinking a Half and Half

[no Bass here, it is a British beer, a definite no-go in an Irish PubI was

informed], with Van Morrison and John Lee Hooker covering "Gloria" for

background music, made this thru-hiker happy. Any place that lets my Guiness

settle for five minutes is definitely high caliber. Yup, a very relaxing day

here in Vermont. Tomorrow I will come to the Maine junction, and will then

shortly be in New Hampshire. The most rugged, but most scenic terrain

awaits. Katahdin seems to be rapidly approaching.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1694.1 ~ Winturn Shelter

June 27 ~ New England weather is infamous for changing quickly. Today there

was a constant battle between rain showers and sunlight. One minute I would

be in the middle of a steady drizzle, the next – the woods was covered with

rays of sun. Weird region, but it's home. The mugginess of the past few days

has broken. The days are temperate and the nights are cool. My favorite type

of weather. Cool nights keep the insects away and makes the sleeping bag

feel like a Sealy mattress. Tonight, some of the people in the shelter built

a campfire. Not only does a fire take the chill out of the air, but it is

relaxing to watch. Something about the flames licking at the logs and seeing

the orange glow of the coals, while listening to the crackling of the wood

makes for a mellow finish to a relaxing day of hiking.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1706.2 ~ Thistle Hill Shelter

June 28 ~ What a fantastic day! Clear blue skies, cool temperatures, great

scenery at the tops of hills, and fields of blackberries in season. Another

day meant to savor by going slow. The initial plan to push on another eight

miles to the Happy Hill Shelter went out the window when I saw how great the

day was. No need to push myself on such a gorgeous day. All the lollygagging

paid off, as well. A section hiking couple, who live not too far from

Hanover, offered to slack pack me for two days. So from Hanover until about

ten miles before Glencliff, I get to hike with a fanny pack and a water

bottle. Not too shabby. They are also letting me stay at their home for two

days. Talk about trail magic par excellence. Taking it easy has its

benefits. The trail magic was just gravy. Being able to savor a sunny June

day in Vermont was what really made it worthwhile-Paul

 

Mile Post 1720.6 ~ Hanover, NH

June 29 ~ Had two events that really put things into perspective today.

First, I met a Maine to Georgia thru-hiker. Then I crossed over into New

Hampshire. Meeting a southbounder and crossing into my second to last state

really makes Maine feel so close. A feature of this trail that continues to

astonish me is the comraderie. This is only my third day hiking with the

same group of section hikers, and we have already made plans where to eat

dinner, where we are staying the night, etc. The bond among hikers is a

strong one. Shared experiences create instant friendships with people of

varied backgrounds. I am so accustomed to saying hello to everyone on the

trail, that I greet everyone in town. I forget that it is odd for strangers

to be friendly to one another in "civilization". The casual and friendly

lifestyle of a thru-hiker will be missed long after the last white blaze has

been passed on Katahdin.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1738.6 ~ West Fairlee, VT

June 30 ~ There is trail magic, then there are trail miracles. Four of us

were met in Hanover by the couple we met the other day. Then my eighteen

miles of slackpacking began. Would not want to hike this way all the time,

but it was a nice change of pace. The kindness of strangers never ceases to

amaze me on this trip. Opening up their home for two days was an act of

kindness that will not be forgotten. I will have many thank you cards to

write when this hike is over.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1754.6 ~ West Fairlee, VT

July 1 ~ Very rainy, but it doesn't seem to matter as much when all I carry

is five pounds of gear. It is my last day of slackpacking and I must say I

enjoyed it. Three nights of taking a shower felt very decadent! We all went

into a nearby town for dinner. One thing I noticed in this town is

homogenous of a country this is becoming. A McDonald's and a WalMart on

every corner. Doing this trail I was able to see the pockets of

individuality that still exists in this country. The trail goes by small

towns and areas that hopefully will not see Golden Arches. A nice change

from the usual way things are done. Sometimes it is a good thing not to be

within five minutes of a Big Mac at all times.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1764.9 ~ Jeffers Brook Shelter

July 2 ~ Fantastic weather today, dare I hope for good weather for the next

few days? I am very excited that I hit my first above tree-line mountain

[for this hike] tomorrow. That is what backpacking is to me: step climbs

that seem to go forever, then a reward at the top. The feeling of seeing for

miles and miles is incredible. The Whites have always been my playground, it

is good to be back in them. I am getting quite used to these low mileage

days. Something about taking leisurely breaks, and still getting into camp

early has a nice feel to it. Some of my favorite places to backpack are

coming up. I plan on enjoying it.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1771.8 ~ Beaver Brook Shelter

July 3 ~ Incredibly fantastic weather today for my entrance to the White

Mountains. On top of Moosilauke, the mountains I am about to climb for the

next few days were in front of me. I could see the Kinsmans; a fantastic

view of the Franconia Ridge; and looming in the distance, towering above all

the other mountains, Mount Washington. I even saw Mt. Mansfield and Camel's

Hump in Northern Vermont. What an incredible sight to see. All told, I spent

five hours at the summit. Well worth every minute spent up there. There has

been some great things to see on the trail, but the Whites will always be a

favorite place of mine to backpack. And what do I see tonight from the

shelter? The full sprawl of the Franconia Ridge. Now that is a great thing

to watch while eating dinner.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1784.9 ~ Kinsman Pond Campsite

July 4 ~ Spending Independence Day in the Whites was a better experience

than I expected. I have been dreading the crowds that are infamous on this

part of the trail. The only people I saw hiking today were five

southbounders on their way to Springer. Apparently all the activity is on

the other side of the highway that runs between the Franconia Notch area. I

was able to enjoy the summit of Kinsman in solitude. Another fine view of

the ridge I will be hiking tomorrow. At the shelter tonight, there are

onlytwo of us. Rare enough on the other parts of the trail, never mind on a

holiday weekend in the White Mountains. Surprises seem to happen all the

time on the AT.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1796.0 ~ Greenleaf Hut

July 5 ~ I must admit I am an above the tree-line hiking junkie. Even though

it was foggy, the thrill of hiking on bare rock with twenty plus mile per

hour winds whipping around gets the ole adrenalin pumping. And a funny thing

happened on top of Laffayette. I was hiking along when I bumped into the

crew chief of the hut. She said she never gets thru-hikers down at the hut,

and it would be great if I stayed the night. Even though it was a mile off

the trail, I thought "why not"? So now I get to play "show and tell" to the

hut guests as part of my work for stay. The crew is extremely friendly and

treated me as one of the gang. And to make the day even better, the storm

moved out, and a clear sky shows the ridge in all its splendor. Tomorrow

will be full of great photo-ops. Funny how things work out for the best on

this trail. One moment, it is raining and foggy with four miles to go to a

shelter, the next – I am eating fresh baked bread and seeing the Franconia

Ridge against a vibrant blue backdrop of sky. This will be a lifestyle that

will be difficult to end.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1802.7 ~ Galehead Hut

July 6 ~ Another unexpected stop today. The crew of the Greenleaf suggested

I stop here, and I bumped into the crew of Galehead on Mt. Garfield. So I

received another invite to stay at a hut. Cool. The crews of these huts are

definately laid back. Very easy to get along with them. Spent an hour on

Garfield soaking up the scenery. The sun was warm, the display outstanding.

Feeling pretty content today. The strombolis for dinner certainly help as

well.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1814.4 ~ Ethan Pond Campsite

July 7 ~ There are several great things about the Appalachian Trail. One of

the things good about it are the diversity of the people using it. From

Snickers crazed long distance hikers to people out for the day. The people I

have met in the past few days have been interesting. Talked to a group of

Canadians who are hiking hut to hut, seen a grandfather out with his

grandson for a few days, and many other people. Being a thru-hiker, I am

asked all kinds of questions. But I just tell them that we are all doing the

same thing, I am just out a bit longer.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1823.8 ~ Mizpah Hut

July 8 ~ I am getting lazier as this hike goes on! One of the advantages of

being one of the first northbounders is that I can stay in a hut very

easily. There were very black clouds on the horizon, and the closest shelter

was five miles, up hill, above treeline. Another "work for stay" seemed very

inviting. Turns out that it was a good decision. "The Dungeon" at the Lakes

of the Clouds Hut already had seven reservations, and the hut itself was

filled to capacity. So, another early day. I was able to read, and get hot

soup and bread for a late lunch. If this goes on, I am going to forget how

to cook my own dinners. These huts definately spoil the thru-hikers. The

crews at these huts really go out of their way to make the thru-hikers

comfortable. Seems like being on the trail is one of the few places where

being on the lazy side has its rewards.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1838.4 ~ Osgood Tentsite

July 9 ~ Walking the Presidentials on a July day full of sunshine is a

pleasure that every hiker should experience at least once in their life.

Mile after mile being above treeline, seeing the peaks thrusting out towards

the sky. Simply amazing. The kind of experience that makes the jaw drop for

the whole day. Heck, even being on the zoo that is called Mt. Washington was

nice on a day like this. Getting off the ridge was another story however.

Dropping from over 4000 feet to 2500 feet in the space of less than three

miles was no fun. The trail was almost at a 90 degree angle in some cases.

Made for some slow hiking. When I finally did pull into camp, I met three

southbounders, a few people out for a week or so and a couple I have been

hiking on and off with who are section hiking to Maine. We all sat on a tent

platform, and the more musically inclined strummed their backpacking guitars

and sang some songs. Not a bad way to end the day.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1848.9 ~ Carter Notch Hut

July 10 ~ Every morning I pack up my gear before eating breakfast. Just a

habit developed over four months of hiking. So naturally the rain came down

in sheets as soon as my tent was packed up. Keep in mind, five minutes

earlier it was bright and sunny. Weather in the White Mountains changes

quickly, especially when a man is trying to eat his Pop Tarts! The terrain

of the past few days has been having an effect on me. Sometimes the terrain

is so steep that I have to pull myself up quite a few times. My arms and

chest have not been used much in the past few months, the sore feeling and

the stiffness in them quickly reminded me how rugged the White Mountains

are. Short day is my reward for the rugged hiking of the past few days. This

self serve hut is a nice place to cook some dinner and read a book. Though,

after the climb over Wildcat, I think it will be an early night in the

sack.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1863.7 ~ Gorham, NH

July 11 ~ Fog on the ridge, sun in the vallies. Blue skies showing, still

raining. Welcome to the White Mountains. The weather is consistent in its

inconsistency. The climbs are steep, the descents jarring on the knees. But,

I enjoy every moment of this. Seems I am thriving on the challenge. The

freedom found on this trail makes even a less than optimum day enjoyable.

This varying weather has a positive effect. A rainbow can be seen from the

hostel here in Gorham. Fantastic looking. Instead of a pot of gold, I would

like to think Katahdin is at the end of the rainbow. Less than three hundred

miles to the end of my journey. Still not sure what to expect at the end of

this little walk.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1875.6 ~ Gentian Pond Campsite

July 12 ~ Had a little preview for Maine in the form of three ponds on the

trail. Relaxing just to sit on the rocks and gaze at the water. A constant

on this trail is that my pack feels about right just before I pick up a

maildrop. After a maildrop, the pack feels like I put lead in it. Gives me

an excuse to take long breaks at ponds. So it is not necessarily a bad

thing. Tomorrow morning I will cross into Maine. State 14 of 14. The End.

Final Jeopardy. No thoughts on that subject except "WOW".-Paul

 

Mile Post 1885.2 ~ Full Goose Shelter

July 13 ~ Short, ten mile day. Ha! The constant steep climbs and steep

descents wore me out. The mileage might have been low on paper, but the

soreness in my legs, shoulders and back say otherwise. Throw in a very full

pack due to a recent maildrop and a fun filled day is had by this Georgia to

Maine hiker. In between my moaning and groaning, I actually had a good day.

Baked in the sun on Mt. Success for two hours, and crossed into Maine. Hard

to believe, but it's true. The whole moment had much symbolism. I slipped

just before the sign, and was by myself at the stateline. So I had the

solitude I enjoy and a fall because of the big klutz I am. Tonight at the

lean-to is quite weird. There are 13 Southbounders here tonight. I have not

seen this many Northbounders on the trail at one time! Odd to see this many

thru-hikers at one time. The contrast between myself and the Southbounders

are interesting. They are excited to enter their second state, and here I am

less than three hundred miles to Katahdin. An end for me, a beginning for

the rest.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1890.3 ~ Speck Pond Campsite

July 14 ~ The Mahoosuc Notch was fun today. Leaping over boulders,

scrambling over the rocks and seeing ice patches in the middle of July was

quite the exhilerating experience. Took me an hour and a half to do this

mile, so it was a bit on the rugged side. But, it was fun. The climb up the

Mahoosuc Arm was steep, but the reward was sweet. Another leisurely break on

a gorgeous mountain top. The day just kept on getting better. I was enjoying

myself too much to push on today. The pond was inviting to swim in. I bumped

into the caretaker, and she said I could use her inner tube in the pond.

Yahoo! So I had a great swim and then read my book while floating in the

middle of a pond. Talk about the high life! And to end this fantastic day,

four of us had a pot luck dinner at the caretaker's tent, complete with

fresh baked brownies. Life is good. Can't wait to see what happens

next.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1897.3 ~ Baldplate Lean-to

July 15 ~ The easy day mode is definitely switched on in me. Just felt like

getting into camp early and polishing off my book. It was a humid day, so I

think it was a good choice. Plus I was able to reduce my pack weight. Taking

it easy and reducing my pack weight. Great combination.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1915.4 ~ Andover, ME

July 16 & 17 ~ Funny how I came to this town. I was hot, sweaty, and

definitely not enjoying the day. Just sitting still made buckets of sweat

come off me. Then I bumped into Camel, who mentioned Pine Ellis B&B

slackpacks. Ah! I see a couple of easy days. We hitched into Andover and

checked into Pine Ellis. Well worth the unexpected side trip. I was able to

slackpack ten miles on an even hotter day and two relaxing days at one of

the friendliest, most accommodating places on the trail. Another two days of

living the high life!-Paul

 

Mile Post 1928.5 ~ Campsite

July 18 ~ A late start and some fairly rugged terrain made for a late

arrival at the road entering Oquossoc. Waited for nearly an hour for a hitch

that never came. So, I decided to camp not too far from the road and head

into town by another road the next day. I am glad I was not able to get the

hitch. The display in front of me was one of the best sun sets I have seen

in my life. Mooselookguntic Lake was a fiery red, with the mountains having

a pink tinge to them. Looked like something out of a Kodak commercial. One

question ran through my mind though. Is it Maine law that a certain

percentage of place names must have three syllables and be unpronouncable?

Just wondering.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1941.5 ~ Oquossoc,ME

July 19 ~ Maine is full of ponds! Seems like every three or four miles there

are great places to swim and to pitch a tent. One campsite even had canoes

available for use. If I was not headed into town for a resupply, it would

have been tempting to spend the day at this site. MATC even had some cut

logs available here for use as seats. Now that is the lap of luxury for

camping. Three out of four days in town is unusual for me, to say the least.

Seems like I want to splurge on the luxuries a bit now that the trip is

almost over. Glad I saved some money up before I left. At this point in the

trail many are worried about running out of money. That is one extra burden

I'm glad I don't have.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1952.2 ~ Poplar Ridge Lean-to

July 20 ~ Saddleback Mountain was interesting today. At the summit, in the

space of five minutes, the weather went from overcast to foggy to drizzle to

hail to sleet! Mark Twain once said, if you don't like the weather in New

England wait a few minutes and it will change! I did not take that statement

literally until today. I had many falls and bumps today. The slippery rocks

definitely gave me a few scares. One fall in particular had me wondering how

the heck was I going to get out of this without doing some major damage. In

retrospect it seems kind of comical. Yelling for ten seconds while sliding

on rocks. The only damage was a few bruises on my leg and arm. Call it trail

magic. Or just plain luck. Five months on the trail has worn me down

physically. I am in excellent spirits, but it is obvious that my body will

need some down time after this trip. I get the "hikers walk" in the morning

until I move for a little while. For those who have never seen this walk, it

is a walk where the knees hardly bend and the person is walking very

stiffly. My knees also get the Rice Crispy affect sometimes. I'll stretch

them out and they'll go "snap, crackle, pop"! Finally, there is my weight

loss. My upper body looks like Pee-Wee Herman! I weighed myself this morning

in town, bit of a shock. While I was twenty pounds or so overweight when I

began this trip, I did not think the weight loss would be as great as it

would be. Mentally and emotionally, I am doing great. I still look forward

to hiking everyday. But five months of hiking has an effect on the body. I

always joked that I was going to be a beach bum for a month or so after the

hike is over. It is no longer a joke, seems like a definate plan. Get to

trade in my Polypro for cotton. That will be different.-Paul

 

 

Mile Post 1960.3 ~ Spaulding Mountain Lean-to

July 21 ~ Decided to do a low mileage day, eat up some of my food to lighten

my pack a bit and then do some big mile days into Monson. The terrain

supposedly gets easier after tomorrow, so these past few days of short

mileage has left me geared up to pick up the pace a bit. I am well rested,

and my pack is lighter. So the higher mileage is doable. Meeting

Southbounders is always interesting for me. Not only do we swap information

on the upcoming terrain, but it is good to hear different perspectives.

Their enthusiasm gets me eagerly anticipating the next day, and I think the

fact that they get to meet someone who has hiked almost two thousand miles

encourages them. The only downside to meeting Southbounders is that they are

great people to meet and to be with. But then the next day comes, and we

don't see each other again. It is a great community on the trail, it is too

bad I do not get to know some of the members of our community better.-Paul

 

Mile Post 1981.6 ~ Avery Memorial Campsite

July 22 ~ I peaked out of my tent this morning and saw gray clouds and some

fog. Great – get to do another spectacular range in the fog and drizzle. But

by noon the fog burned off and had a fun day climbing up a steep trail that

had a fine view. I like to be rewarded for my hard work. And I was. Today

was the kind of day that left me pleasantly tired. Feeling like this lets me

know I had a full day, without feeling too exhausted. The past few days of

rest really helped make the day go by easy. Instead of crawling into camp

with only minutes of daylight left, I was able to get here by six and have

enough energy to cook a meal and time to unwind a bit. I find it odd how a

short day, then a long day can actually be easier on the body than two

medium sized days. Seems to work for me. If all goes well, the two thousand

mile mark will be hit tomorrow. Still amazes me how far I have come.

Springer Mountain seems like a lifetime ago. In a way, it is. I do not think

I am quite the same person of two thousand miles back. This trail is more

than just a journey from Springer to Katahdin. It has been a journey of

memories and experiences that will stay with me and affect me long after the

photo at Baxter Park is taken. Cliche though it may be, I may leave the

trail, but I don't think the trail will ever leave me.-Paul

 

Mile Post 2003.8 ~ North Branch,Carrying Place Stream

July 23 ~ The best time to be on a mountain peak is early in the morning.

For some reason it is tranquil on the summit at this time of day. The whole

setting puts the mind at ease, getting a good frame of mind for the rest of

the day. Almost made the push to Pierce Pond Lean-to tonight. But I hate

getting into camp late. Though I will miss a pancake breakfast at

Harrison's, I would not enjoy it very much if I was exhausted. I am an early

riser, so there should be no problem making the ferry across the Kennebec

River. Had my worse accident yet on the trail. The on and off rain of today

made for a very muddy and slippery walk. Needless to say, I slipped. Falling

down, my right arm sunk into the mud and was cut on a rock in the mud. Kind

of like a nastier version of a Cracker Jacks prize. I looked at my arm and

noticed a nasty gash. Great. Just what I needed, stitches. Once I cleaned it

out though, I noticed the bleeding had already stopped and the cut was more

superficial than it first looked. So I now have a four by four dressing on

my arm held in place with some snazzy looking duct tape (of course). Should

also have a nifty looking scar as a momento of my hiking in Maine.-Paul

 

Mile Post 2024.8 ~ Bald Mountain Brook Lean-to

July 24 ~ Crossing the Kennebec River was a big psychological boost. A major

milestone of the trail, and crossing that river really made me feel like I

was coming to the end of my journey. Celebrated this occasion with an early

power lunch of a litre of Mountain Dew and a pint of Ben and Jerry's. This

combination always seems to make the miles fly by. Tomorrow I will be in

Monson, my last trail town. My friend Tim and his girlfriend Nicole will be

meeting me there. Tim will be putting up with me for a week to hike the

Wilderness. Haven't seen any of my friends in five months, so tomorrow will

be a great day. Five months of dumb jokes, wise cracks, stories and general

news will have to be discussed in the coming week. I am curious to see if

Tim or Nicole notice any changes in me. (Besides the fact that I now look

like a cross between Grizzly Adams and a war refugee).-Paul

 

Mile Post 2046.9 ~ Monson, ME

July 25 ~ Walked into Monson with much anticipation. My last trail town, the

last push before Katahdin! As I approached Shaw's, I noticed a car with

Rhode Island license plates. My friends have arrived! Tim and Nicole could

not believe how different I looked from five months ago. Nicole kept on

saying "You are smaller than me"! (But at 5'6", I am smaller than most to

begin with,my weight loss really makes me look tiny!) They both thought my

beard was 'interesting'. After woofing down several plates of food, Tim and

I did much talking. Between my stories of the past five months, and his news

of what was going on at home, it was a late evening. It is almost 12:30AM as

I write this, well past a thru-hiker's bedtime! Tomorrow we will start our

hike of the Wilderness. The final stretch before the end of this journey. I

have hiked many miles and have had many memories on this hike. Hard to

believe in a weeks time, I will have no more white blazes to follow, no more

climbs to make. I look forward to being on Katahdin, but it will be hard to

end what has been the most satisfying five months of my life.-Paul

 

Mile Post 2059.9 ~ Campsite

July 26 ~ The first day in the Wilderness had a nice pace to it. Hiking with

Tim made the whole day feel like a weekend backpacking trip. But, as Tim

said, "Weekend trips do not last a whole week"! Well put. Had a major stream

crossing in the form of the Big Wilson. Actually had fun doing this

crossing. Something different from the daily routine of hiking. Finally came

to this spot around 5 o'clock. No reason to push to a shelter when there is

a nice camping spot. A grassy, abandoned logging road with a small stream

made for a good place to spend the night. Tomorrow we will face the most

difficult terrain in the Wilderness. Should be interesting.-Paul

 

Mile Post 2077.1 ~ Pleasent River

July 27 ~ The Barren-Chairback Range was indeed hard hiking. Many steep

climbs, but, oh, what a gorgeous day. Getting to the Barren Cliffs made

every ounce of sweat expended well worth it. Seeing all these lakes mixed in

with the lush green of the woods was like looking at a watercolor painting

come to life. Just had to have a break and soak up the sunshine and scenery.

Finally made it to another nice place to camp. Some Southbounders told us

about. Flat, not too far from the stream. After pitching the tent, took a

refreshing (polite way of saying "GAWD! THAT WAS COLD!") dip in the river,

and ate dinner. Another satisfying day on the AT.-Paul

 

Mile Post 2089.8 ~ Logan Brook Lean-to

July 28 ~ You would think two buddies who have not seen each other in five

months would have many meaningful things to talk about. Where we are headed

in life, what I have gained out of this trip, what means the most to us.

Nah. We are guys after all.(grin) And more importantly, we are guys who

hike. So we talked about what every hiker dreams about: FOOD! All we could

think of was food we crave. From steaks and burgers on the grill, to Big

Macs, to all you can eat Chinese food buffets, to my mother's homemade sauce

with meatballs and sausage, to Taco Bell, etc. etc. etc. You cannot

understand why food is such an important item for hikers until you have

experienced this small hole in the stomach that is never quite satisfied. No

matter how much I eat, I am hungry soon after. It is a black hole of

calories that exists in my stomach. We are excited about hitting Abol Bridge

in a couple of days for frozen, microwave food. The thought of frozen

cheeseburgers are actually making me excited. Food is energy, and you can

never get enough of it on the trail. But the discussing of food all day was

not the only thing we did. Believe it or not, we actually hiked a bit.

Getting to the summit of Whitecap Mountain was the best moment of the day.

Could actually see Katahdin in the distance. My first view of this mountain.

The end of my journey was in sight, only fifty miles away. The next fifty

are supposed to be the easiest part of the Wilderness. We shall see. Trail

rumors have a funny way of not exactly being 100% accurate.-Paul

 

Mile Post 2110.9 ~ Lower Jo-Mary Lake

July 29 ~ The trail has many pleasures to offer. From the broad sweep of

grassy fields on a bald in the South, to the majestic landscape of the

Grayson Highlands, to the rugged beauty of the White Mountains. But, I think

I enjoy these quiet, subtle moments, more. This campsite is by far the best I

have ever been in. A natural beach on the quiet shores of Jo-Mary Lake. The

wind is a slight breeze, and the sun is reflecting on the lake with a soft,

orange glow. I am writing this journal entry by the water, listening to the

gentle sounds of the waves lapping at the shore. A place that lends itself

to contemplation. This place and moment is best enjoyed in silence. Nature

is doing all the talking that needs to be done for tonight.-Paul

 

Mile Post 2134.4 ~ Rainbow Springs Campsite

July 30 ~ Funny how we ended up at this spot tonight. On the map, I saw a

place by an abandoned dam that looked promising for a campsite. Supposedly

had a trail leading to the spot. Well, I guess we passed it, or the side

trail was not very well marked. I kept on saying "We are almost there!" or

"I think the mud is slowing us down a bit, that must be why it is taking so

long to get there." Optimism is an easy trait to acquire when it is the end

of the day and you are tired and really, really, REALLY want the campsite to

show up. So I saw an approaching grass clearing on the trail and thought

"Ah, the heck with it, good a place as any to pitch a tent". Then I noticed

the sign that designated the camping spot. We had gone more than two miles

past where we originally wanted to tent! On the plus side, that much less

mileage to Daicey Pond tomorrow. Always an adventure on the AT. Especially

when you hike an extra two miles without meaning to. Nesuntabunt Mountain

was a hard climb with another rewarding view of Katahdin. Katahdin is so

close now, not quite sure what to make of it. Do not know what my reaction

will be when I make that last climb. Only one way to find out.-Paul

 

Mile Post 2134.4 ~ Daicey Field Lean-to g

July 31 ~ Amazing what the lure of ice cream, soda and cheeseburgers can do

to make a ten mile hike go by so fast. The five of us (Squanto, Blaze,

Camel, Tim and myself) bought much food at the campground store. The

convenience store quality food tasted like the finest banquet we have ever

had. By this point on the trail, all the thru-hikers are starving for

calories. Throw on the ice cream sandwiches! The more fat the better. Spent

a small fortune on junk food, but it was worth it. Seeing Katahdin from

Daicey Pond was an awe inspiring sight. Katahdin was so majestic looking,

dominating the horizon like no other mountain I have ever seen. So easy to

be mesmerized by this peak. I can see why the Abenaki called it "Greatest

Mountain". There was a subdued mood in camp tonight. The routine was the

same. Still had to filter water, cook dinner, clean out pots. But it was the

last time we would do this on the trail. Tomorrow will mark the end of our

focus for these past few months. The talk of this evening was still

lighthearted, but there was a subdued atmosphere just under the layer of a

typical night in camp. We were all affected by this trip, and I think all of

us thought about it in our own way. By coincidence, we all had the same last

meal. If there is ever an official meal for backpackers, it is mac n'cheese.

The fact that I still enjoy it after five months is a bit scary,

though!-Paul

 

Mile Post 2160.7 ~ Katahdin

Aug 1 ~ Woke up very early, even for me. By four-thirty, I was fully awake.

Could not wait to begin the final climb. Felt the same way when I was six or

seven years old on Christmas morning. I knew it was too early to get up, but

it was hard waiting for the right time. Finally, five o'clock rolled around.

The routine was the same, but today was different, I am climbing Katahdin!

Arrived at Katahdin Stream Campground with much excitement and anticipation.

Scanned the cars for some familiar faces. And I saw them. After five months,

many postcards, a few calls, I finally was able to see my friends and

youngest brother again. They all smiled when they saw me, but I think they

were not smiling when that oh-so-special hiker smell hit their noses! The

climb up Katahdin started up easy enough, I went at a slower pace so we

could all hike together, but when I hit the treeline, my pace really picked

up. Tim, my brother and Steve kept up with me – but Leo and Jim fell behind.

I did not even realize how fast I was hiking. When I saw I was on the Table

Lands and could see the Baxter Peak sign, I really picked up the pace. The

anticipation and excitement was too much. At maybe a quarter mile to the

summit, Tim asked me to wait here so he could take my picture as I approach

the summit. I reluctantly agreed. Very hard two minutes of waiting, let me

tell you. Finally, I pushed on again. When I reached the summit, and touched

the sign, I let out the loudest yell of my life. The emotions were that

intense. I had accomplished something that was theoretical five months ago,

and now it was real. Incredible feeling. Took the usual summit photos. My

friends packed up a feast. Cold cuts, bread, a bottle of Dom Perignon, and

they had a surprise in the form of 'sparkling wine' that they sprayed me

down with. (They later said I would smell better stinking of cheap wine!) On

my final hike, I packed in a full watermelon. Nothing like handing out

pieces of watermelon at 5267 feet. Long story behind this, have to explain

it sometime. My hike of the AT is over. No more white blazes to follow. The

AT will always be a part of me. I have seen sights that most people do not

see. I will remember the crunch of fresh snow under my boots, the way the

sun feels after many days of rain. The joy a cold soda can bring from a

complete stranger. The daily rhythm of hiking that seems to bring

tranquility. I have pushed myself physically, mentally, and emotionally

these past five months. It was not easy to do. But the rewards are many.

Horizons are now limitless, what can and cannot be done is redefined. The

Appalachian Trail was a special moment in my life. Never have five months

had so much meaning and purpose. These past five months I have learned more

about myself than I thought I could know. I now have a better idea of who

Paul Magnanti is. The memories and experiences of the trial will always be a

part of me. Climbing to Katahdin may have ended this journey, but in my

heart and thoughts, I will still be on the trail.-Paul

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