Dedicated to Mara's travel and hiking adventure journals as well as her words of wisdom and suggested resources for hikers and travelers.
What I did on my summer vacation...
My vacation started a little bit early – on Thursday – when I went down to Wareham, MA to have dinner with Yak and Yo. They’re the couple I hiked with in Maine. If you have to be stranded with a couple of people, I was glad to be stranded with them. Anyway, it was good to see them and meet some of Yo’s family.
On Friday, I got a phone call from PapaBear, a section hiker I had met on Springer in 1999. He’s on track to finish the AT next year and called to say ‘hi’ and get some gear advice.
On Saturday, I went up to VT to go to Trail Trotter and Whittler’s baby shower. I had also met Trail Trotter and Whittler on Springer in 1999. They completed their thruhike a couple of weeks after I did. They are expecting their first child any day now. It was great to see them and see the baby’s first hiking boots and fleece. :-) I was also glad to be able to pass along greetings from PapaBear.
On Sunday, I stopped for breakfast in Connecticut with family that lives in the area and then made my way to New York.
I stopped at the RPH shelter on my way to the Bear Mountain Inn but there were no hikers there at midday. Then, I finished the drive to Bear Mountain and drove up to the tower to kill some time and work some trail magic. When I drove back down the mountain, I was expecting to park so that I could meet Tubaman as planned at 2:00. The two of us were going to track down Isis and Jackrabbit. Imagine my surprise when I found the parking lots closed. It was an incredibly hot, beautiful day and it seemed half of New York had decided to go picnic at the Bear Mountain Inn. They were turning people away and sending them to Tiorati State Park.
Explaining the situation, I was finally directed to go park in the 20 minute parking. When I had walked thru the Bear Mountain area two years earlier – almost to the day, I don’t think I counted more than 20 people. On this day, there were probably 2000 or more in the area. But, after I finally parked around 2:30, I quickly saw a thruhiker who directed me to a hiker feed that Bookworm and Chef were putting on. Just a few minutes later, Tubaman also walks up having been forced to park further away and then walk into the park.
Tubaman had gotten email saying that the Barefoot sisters were going to be a day late so we decided to hang out for a little while so Tubaman could gave a little concert, and make our way to Tiorati State Park. We knew there was camping near the trailhead and we could intercept the Barefoot Sisters when they got there the next day. On the way to Tiorati, we stopped by West Point to see if a friend of Tubaman’s was there. He wasn’t but we had noticed "Free Concert" signs on the way in. So, instead of going to directly to Tiorati, we got a pizza and came back to West Point for the free, open air, concert.
What a treat… It was the U.S. Army Knights Jazz band and they were doing a salute to Glenn Miller. We watched, listened, Tubaman napped, and then Tubaman and I even managed to get in a swing dance. Can you believe it? He hikes, he plays tuba, and he SWING dances. Cool! After the concert, while people were still milling around, Tubaman gave yet another little tuba concert.
So, we finally make our way to Tiorati, park the car, and walk back to the trail where we knew of some camping just a few hundred yards in from the trailhead. The weather was great so we just spread out a groundsheet and crashed under the stars. There were a bunch of other hikers already dead to the world by the time we got there.
The next morning, we talked to the other hikers camped there and found out that one of them thought Isis and Jackrabbit were north of there. Argh! We had hoped to slackpack them for that section. So, just to be sure, I took a quick trip up a blue blaze to see if they had signed the register at Fingerboard. On the way up, I saw a 5’ black snake, a ribbon snake, listened to an Eastern Towhee, and ate a few blueberries. The register had just been filled within a day or two but there were no notes from Isis and Jackrabbit – even on the back cover which still had a bit of room.
Relying on the other hiker’s knowledge, we drove back to the Bear Mountain area and not finding them at the Post Office, we drove up the first dirt road crossing north of the bridge crossing. Each time we tried to hike south to go meet them, other hikers would be emerging from the south so we would go back to the car and hand out some trail magic. Among the other hikers we saw were Rambunny and Seattle. It was great to see Rambunny again and know that she’s both looking great and feeling great. Last year, when she hiked the trail, she had a painful hip problem that plagued most of her thruhike. This time, she realized just how much more she was able to enjoy the trail without the pain.
Before Rambunny and friends could get on their way, Isis and Jackrabbit reached the trailhead. It was great to see them. They are much more frequently now hiking in their sandals but this year. They have a time constraint and sandals allow them to hike more "normal" hiker miles.
We stashed their packs, piled into the car, and went to town for a quick lunch. Then Tubaman got his car back and we shuttled his car up the dirt road and all drove up to Fahnstock State Park. It was about 3:30 PM on a hot, muggy day, when the four of us started a 16 mile slackpack back to Tubaman’s car. We found out later that the heat index had been over 100 that day and we hiked through the worst of the heat.
Tubaman caught up with us in short order after attempting to do some trail magic by picking up a woman we had seen roadwalking with a full pack. She declined but he still had some work to do to catch up with us. We continued and took advantage of a spigot near a road crossing to dunk our heads, cool off, and drink as much water as we possibly could.
Continuing on, Tubaman once again caught up after unsuccessfully backtracking to find his t-shirt left behind during a break (he would later recover it from some northbound hikers). Then, at our last road crossing, it looked like he would be catching up again. He was making a phone call so the three of us went ahead to tray to beat the rapidly falling darkness. When it finally go to the point where lights were almost needed, we stopped to wait for Tubaman, not knowing if he knew he had a light with him. It was on my keychain that he was carrying.
We waited, and waited, and waited some more. Jackrabbit and Isis sang some songs for me in beautiful harmony. (What a treat.) Now it was truly dark and it occurred to us that it was possible Tubaman had hitched around. So, I turned on my yellow photon light (200 hours, right?) and left it hanging where Tubaman couldn’t miss it if he got that far.
We quickly got back to the road to find Tubaman sleeping in his car. He had hitched around to the bridge and walked up from the other direction.
To make a longer story short, he brought me back to my car, I went back for Jackrabbit and Isis, and we found our way to the RPH shelter. By the time we got there, it was after midnight. The sisters scarfed some bread and cheese and went to sleep. I ate a Poptart, spread my stuff under the stars for yet another beautiful night, and saw a few shooting stars before Tubaman showed up with ice cream. By then, everyone else was asleep so we shared one pint and left the other in the cooler to melt by morning.
On Tuesday morning, we slacked the last 6.5 miles from Fahnstock to RPH where Jackrabbit was hoping to have a friend, Aislinn, meet her but wondering if her friend would find the place because the address she had was for the caretaker’s place, not the shelter. We were all really dehydrated and not functioning at our best by the time we got back. I filtered some water, Tubaman got some lemonade from the car, and then he shuttled me so I could get my car back. By the time I returned, Isis had figured out where the caretakers house was and an hour later than the planned meeting time already, we raced up the hill to see if we could find Jackrabbit’s friend. We found the house but there was no sign of Jackrabbit’s friend. Isis was discouraged but sat down to write a note to both the caretaker and the friend. Right then, a car pulls up. Jackrabbit’s friend was running an hour late, too. Our timing could not have been better.
Back at the shelter, there’s yet another good reunion, another concert, and then Tubaman and I had to hit the road.
We stopped for pizza near the route 52 AT crossing. Jackrabbit, Isis, and Aislinn pull up, too. We ate fast, took a couple of hikers and backpacks back up to the trail, and hit the road.
With Tubaman’s walkie-talkies, we are able to stay in touch on the road while we drove north. The plan was for Tubaman to help me shuttle my car so I could do a three to four day Long Trail section.
But, by the time I got near Vermont, my right knee was in such pain from driving (no cruise control in the car I was driving) that I had to stop for a break. Just inside Vermont, I found Tubaman but knew I couldn’t finish the drive so I gave him back the walkie-talkie and said good-bye. A few phone calls later and I was meeting Mrs. Gorp at the Whistlestop Café and then followed her back to her place for the night. It was good to see Larry, her husband, again and catch up with Cindy. It made me feel like I was thruhiking again.
The next morning, with my knee feeling much better, I left early to go meet the Old Ridgerunner and Trailwife for breakfast at the Plum and Maine in Johnson and then a shuttle back to Jonesville. The shuttle was wonderful, with a tour through Smuggler’s Notch and some of the local history that you just don’t get when you’re "just" hiking. I’m really glad I had the opportunity to sit and have breakfast with them.
With reports of marginal water at Puffer shelter, I ended up stopping at Buchanon shelter where a piped spring was running beautifully. The shelter itself was really nice with an open air porch, and an enclosed sleeping area. There were four people there who had hooked up while on the trail and were end-to-ending together. They were going northbound and had already been on the trail for four weeks.
Two other men eventually joined us as well.
The next morning was a late one for me but I was still the first one up and out. I think others were stirring just as I was heading out around 8:00am.
I had a second breakfast at Puffer shelter. I was finding that there were plenty of "puddles" or slow moving streams to filter from but fewer opportunities to find water when just using iodine as water treatment.
I stopped for lunch at the Tucker shelter at the Mansfield Trail. And then it was three miles of trail that I had been on before. Just a bit seemed familiar but since it had been pouring three years ago, most of what I had remembered was slogging through mud and slipping on wet rocks. Neither was that much of an issue this time. The tendon on the inside of my right ankle was bothering me so I was going slower than expected and decided to stop for the night at the new Butler shelter.
Since I had been there three years earlier, the top third of the shelter had literally been jacked up and the bottom rebuilt under it. The shelter was now much higher, had steps going up to the entrance, and a wonderful porch with a great bench had been added.
I remembered playing hours of cribbage inside the dank, dark shelter three years earlier while waiting for the rain to let up so I could make it over Mansfield. The rain never let up and we ended up backtracking and skipping the Mansfield section. This time, the weather was great. The view from the new porch on Butler is phenomenal. It goes straight out across Lake Champlain to Mt. Marcy in the Adirondacks.
There were only two other women there in addition to the caretaker so we were all able to spread out.
The next morning, I started out having dosed up on Ibuprofen. I knew I would be calling it quits once I got to Smuggler’s Notch. There was no way I could make it back to my car by Saturday morning. Instead, I had an easy climb up the forehead. Once of the women caught me as we approached the forehead summit station and we walked together to the Chin. We hung out there for a while and then headed down. She got ahead of me almost immediately and I didn’t expect to see here again. I dropped my pack and took a side trip up to the Adam’s Apple and then stopped at the Taft shelter on the way down. Met a few interesting people going up but then had to beat my way past the crowds go up as I got lower on the mountain.
Imagine my surprise when that woman and her friend were waiting for me at the trailhead when I finished the section. They were waiting to take me back to my car. How nice was that? So, I got back to my car and headed for Stow to hit Pie in the Sky for AYCE pizza.
On the way there, I noticed my car running hot. I though maybe the traffic was the culprit but after lunch, it got hot almost immediately. I pulled into a service station with a NAPA store – still in Stowe – only to discover that my radiator was leaking. The guy at the store makes a couple of phone calls and we find a repair shop willing to look at it. We add water to the radiator and I limp to the repair shop.
There, they want to install a new, $350 radiator into a car that’s only worth $500. I decline, and am about to junk the car and take the train home when someone mentions a used radiator. One call later and I’ve got a radiator lined up for the next morning and this shop ready to do the repair as soon as I bring the car and used radiator in.
For some reason, I had tossed a hostel guide into my car before I left and I quickly located a hostel in Stowe so I even had nearby lodging. Cool!
The next morning, I drove my leaking car nearly 30 miles only to find out that the radiator was the wrong one. But, since I made it that far and the car wasn’t overheating, I decided to try to make it to Boston. With the heater blowing, I made it all the way back to Boston without having to refill the radiator. Cool!
I had needed to get home because I had visitors coming from Georgia. So I got home in plenty of time to meet them. I also arrived home to find a message on my answering machine from Orren, (MEGA 2000) who was going to be pulling into Boston on a boat that same day. Sure enough, he called that night.
Turns out he hadn’t hiked since his thruhike and he would love to join my friends and me for our planned Monadnock hike on Sunday. I borrowed my sister’s car and the four of us met for breakfast at Johnny D’s, a great Davis Sq. establishment. Then we had a wonderful climb up Mt. Monadnock. There, as usual, I saw a few people I knew. One of whom was a former Brooks employee who had heard some scuttlebutt while I was on vacation. With the current economy, I was now going back to work knowing that I would be having a pay cut. Argh! But, it’s better than being laid off so I wasn’t going to worry about it while I was with friends. We had great Tibetan food for dinner and Toscanini’s ice cream for dessert.
Orren ended up crashing at my place that night, too. Once again, Mara’s Hiker Hostel was open for business. :-)
Dropped Orren off the next morning and made my way to work to find out the fullest extent of the news…
Once I got to work, I found out the group I’m in was earmarked to lose one person. Rather than fire one of us, we all agreed to work just a four day work week. So, I now have a lot more free time – and a lot less money coming in. I’ll have to see if I like this new lifestyle. Can’t wait for all the three day weekends though… :-)
Anyone want to go hiking?
Tips and Tricks
Gear Reviews and Discussions
AT FAQ and Stats
Trip Reports Gear Lists Mail Drops About Me Acknowledgements Photos Updates Fun Email Mara