Dedicated to Mara's travel and hiking adventure journals as well as her words of wisdom and suggested resources for hikers and travelers.
The success of plans B, C, D, and E, July 2002
Plan A was going to be spending up to three weeks hiking and measuring the Cohos Trail. My starting date was to have been July 5. On the third, I got a phone call which effectively ended my participation in the project. It also left me scrambling to fill in at least two weeks of vacation time.
So, a day late, on Saturday, I finally hit the trail. But this time, it was the Long Trail. I only had 60 miles in two sections to complete my six year section hike of the trail.
I met the Old Ridge Runner at Hazen's Notch where we left my car and shuttled up to Journey's End. He was joinning me for just the short, two day stretch of trail.
We set off for the border at around noon and were soon taking pictures of the obelisk and border swath. ORR joked about smiling for the cameras. You never knew where there might be cameras set up along the border swath.
We finally started south from the border on the Long Trail. We hadn't gone very far when we heard a crashing in the forest next to us. We turned and saw a moose heading straight for us. We both started talking to make sure the moose knew we were there but it kept coming toward us. Maybe 20' away, it stopped its forward progress and thrashed about a bit where it was. Then it just stopped and stood there looking at us. That's OK, we were just stopped and standing there looking back at it.
What a great way to start a hike.
It was a cloudy, hazy day, and rain was in the forecast for the afternoon. We got to the Shooting Star shelter in short time and realized that though we had time to get to Laura Woodward shelter, we would probably end up hiking in rough terrain, in the rain, until almost dark. We elected to cut the day short and just do a longer day the next day.
A group passed us by on their way north to the road. The a short while later, a couple joined us for the night on their way north. They had just done in two days what ORR and I were planning on doing in one day, the next day.
Given the light loads ORR and I were carrying compared to the rest of the backpackers we had seen on the trail, I wasn't too surprised at the "shorter" miles they were doing.
The next day was a long day but the weather cooperated. The clouds finally seemed to clear but there was a thick haze and the sun burned a red instead of yellow. We even commented on how you could actually look at for a moment or two when normally you wouldn't look directly at the sun.
We took breaks here and there, stopping at shelters and view points along the way. I think it ended up taking us 11 hours to go the 14 miles. But, having gotten an early start, we were still out at a reasonable hour.
There was some question as to whether my little car was going to be able to make it all the way in to the Journey's End trailhead, but it made it. A quick dinner stop and then ORR and his wife, Jan, put me up for the evening in Stowe.
The next day, was a lazy day for me. I had always been rushing to get here and there whenever I had been in VT so had passed a number of places without ever stopping. So, this day, I played tourist, checked out some Art Glass studios, stopped at the Green Mountain Club offices, sampled tasty goods at the Cider House, and struck out at Ben and Jerry's when the two sample flavors at the end of the tour were flavors I wouldn't eat. But, I bought my own sundae and got exactly what I wanted. Yum!
Then, I started making my way south on 100 to Brandon Gap. I stopped for a pizza at an old "inn", ate half and had the rest packed for the trail. At 4:45p, I finally got to the Brandon Gap and started walking north. I only had 5.5 miles to go and with midsummer sunsets so late, I had no concerns about getting to camp at a reasonable hour.
I made excellent time and got to camp at 7:30 with plenty of time before sunset. There, I met Mitch a '98 AT thruhiker who was now thruhiking the Long Trail with a friend of hers, Sister Braids. Turns out Mitch and I knew quite a few people in common and I had even met her father, who is on the AT list, at the PA Ruck. A fourth hiker, Paul, was there, just out for a few days.
The next morning, we were all slowed down by the delicious wild strawberries on top of Middlebury Mountain. There were a few showers in the afternoon. I stopped at Skyline Pond for dinner and then pushed on to the Emily Proctor Shelter where I found I had the shelter to myself that evening. I awoke at 10:45pm to a violent storm of heavy rain and strong winds. The winds were blowing spray directly into the shelter so I moved to the back of the shelter with my gear and promptly fell back to sleep.
The next day, I was up and out early. I stopped for lunch at the Cooley Glen shelter and shared the spot with a salamander and a couple of butterflies. Then, later at the trailhead before Abraham, I met a Linda Cullen, a '79 AT thruhiker. Anyone on the AT list remember her?
Early that evening, I felt somewhat "on display" at the Battell shelter. The trip up and down Abraham is rather short and hikers were still starting UP the mountain as I was settling into the shelter for the night. Had the winds calmed down, I might have gone up the mountain for sunset and a night hike to the nearest ski area to spend the night. But, it was getting cold and I wasn't sure if the summit buildings at the ski areas would be open. I had already finished dinner when Mitch and Sister Braids caught up with me. They had been at the Skyline Pond shelter the night before, having been delayed by a resupply earlier that afternoon. It was nice to share that particular shelter when all the day hikers were passing by.
The next day, I hiked on and off with Mitch and Braided Sister until the descent off Ellen when they pulled ahead. It was a rather steep descent and I was trying to take it easy to give my knees a break.
I finally got down to Appalachian Gap to find Mitch and Braided Sister taking a break there. They joined me in creating a bit of noise as I celebrated the completion of my Long Trail section hike, only somewhat ironically at the same place I started my hike.
A man, checking his oil at the trailhead parking lot, asked what the commotion was about. A short discussion later, and he offered me a ride down the mountain. Turns out he was headed north but at least I got to 100 all right. After he let me off, I was walking toward 100 and hadn't even gotten there when car started going by. Impulsively, I stuck out my thumb and that car stopped. Woohoo!!! Couldn't believe my luck. While they weren't going up to Brandon Gap, at least they were traveling as far as 73 along 100. So far so good... At 73, quite a few cars passed me without picking me up. But, I got the impression that most of them weren't going as far as the gap.
Finally, a guy driving this huge fertilizer truck stopped. He didn't have a load so letting me off would be easy. He stopped right at the top of the gap and in an hour or so, I had hitched all the way from Appalachian Gap to Brandon Gap. Cool! I LoVermont!
I made my way to Randolph but was disappointed that I wouldn't get to see some AT friends there.
But, my last day on the Long Trail inspired me for the next week of my vacation. While going over Abraham and Ellen, I completed the last of the Vermont 4,000'ers. I had already completed the NH peaks years earlier, and on the AT in Maine, I know I hit a lot of them. So, I decided to make my way over to Maine. That night, I got as far as Gorham, NH where I stopped at Hiker's Paradise. I got to meet Mother Goose, the woman most likely to be the first woman to complete a thruhike of the ECT. She was just getting back on the trail after a two week hiatus and much needed break.
That night, I was in crisis. Shortly after I tried to go to sleep, my knees were in excruciating pain. I could only get in and out of bed by using my arms and a trip to the bathroom was an unwelcome adventure in and of itself. I finally took four ibuprofen, stacked two pillows under my knees and one under my feet, and tried to get some sleep. I was so glad I had that room to myself in the hostel. Otherwise, I'm sure I would have kept others awake with my painful tossing and turning and occasional involuntary exclamations. I thought many times how I might have to get someone - maybe Bruce - to take me to the hospital the next day.
Thankfully, by the next morning, my knees, while still sore, were functional and the pain was manageable.
The next day, I helped out a couple of hikers with some errands, enjoyed both breakfast and lunch at Loaf Around, and checked my email at the library.
Finally, I hopped in the car for a trip to the Cabin in Andover. I found I had missed Honey who was near Gorham at the Dolly Copp campground celebrating her birthday. But it was good to see Bear and catch up on the local news. Lots of hikers there. Helped out by doing a few loads of laundry that night and the next morning.
French Fry, AT '98, was there. He lives nearby and keeps a vegetable garden at the Cabin. He had recently completed massage therapy school and was still giving free massages to gain the experience necessary to be licensed. He was looking for volunteers and who was I to argue. ;-) The next morning, after the thruhikers had gotten pack on the trail, I got a great massage. What a treat after 6 days on the trail!
It was after 1:00 when I finally got back on the road headed for Baxter. I knew a friend of mine, Walking Home, AT ’99, aka Sue, was working there but I didn't know her hours or days but I figured she was still working weekends. I also knew that she had been recently reassigned to the Visitor Center when she broke her leg.
I pulled up to the Visitor Center just 20 minutes after it had closed. But, I took a look around and wondered at the little cabin next to the visitor center. Driving over, I saw Jojo Smiley's car and knew I must have found Sue. Sue was using Jojo’s car until should could once again use the clutch in her own car. Sue wasn't at all expecting me so it was great to surprise her. I managed to catch her just before she took a trip into town.
Little did I know what type of reunion this was to become.
That night, we had dinner in town and picked up some supplies.
The next day, I hiked up North Brother to bag another peak while Sue worked. When I returned to the Visitor Center, Sue was glad to see me safe. Apparently a violent thunderstorm had come through at the Visitor Center. Where I was, I enjoyed a wonderfully beautiful and dry day.
Then we enjoyed dinner together and a tour of the camp areas of Baxter Park.
Sue’s day’s off were Monday through Wednesday. On Monday, we went back to town to try to connect with some of the folks she was expecting over the next few days. We weren’t successful but still knew that everything would work out. As thruhikers, that was always the case, right?
We drove to Abol Bridge and found Nomad98’s camper but he had apparently already went to town. We left a note for him. Then we went straight back to Sue’s cabin only to find that Nomad had already been there and left a note for us on his way to town. We finally connected when he stopped by on his way back from town.
He and Jojo had recently become engaged as he was supporting her along the trail. He was supposed to be busy with other commitments but managed to clear his calendar as was going to surprise her as she came out of the 100-mile wilderness. He was also going to be slackpacking Jojo and three of her hiking companions as much as possible all the way up to Cape Gaspe. Jojo was also trying to be the first woman to thruhike the ECT but she would have to flip south after reaching the Cape to finish a section including all of Pennsylvania.
On Tuesday, Colorad00, Tennessee, and Camo arrived. They would be hiking with Jojo from Katahdin to Cape Gaspe. Nomad met Jojo on the trail that morning as she walked into Abol Bridge and then slackpacked her to Katahdin Stream. As he drove around, he stopped at Sue’s cabin. We all piled into Colorad00’s van and took yet another tour of the park. We finally stopped at Katahdin Stream to wait for Jojo.
As we’re meandering about and crossing the bridge to the ranger station, I recognize friends from my ’99 thruhike. It was Ma & Pa, just arriving at Katahdin Stream with plans to summit Katahdin on the next day. What wonderful timing! We had a great reunion and Ma & Pa ended up joining us for hamburgers and spaghetti at Sue’s cabin. I drove them back to the Birches after dinner so they could get an early start the next day. On the way back out of the park, I stopped to watch a big bull moose dining on vegetation from the bottom of Stump Pond. He would chew and then submerge his entire head to find more food. Pulling his head out of the water, the water would just stream off him. He was still eating as I drove away.
The next morning, we were up early.Colorad00, Nomad, and I went to the Roaring Brook trailhead while the rest of the crowd aimed for Katahdin Stream and the Hunt Trail. Nomad was just out for an easy hike to Chimney Pond and maybe beyond. Colorad00 and I were both headed up the Saddle trail. At the top of the headwall, we parted ways and Colorad00 went to meet the crown on Baxter Peak while I went to bag Hamlin Peak, another of Maine’s 4,000’ers.
Most of the crowd had descended before I got to the slide but Ma & Pa caught up with me as I was descending the slide. It was great to hike with them again and be with them as they finished their 1999 thruhike.
Sue spent the day cooking up a huge batch of meatloaf which was enjoyed by all. Then I took Ma & Pa into Millinocket where they were going to luxuriate in their own room, with a shower, and acces to a hot tub.
On Thursday, Sue went back to work, I skipped out on the gang and went to town to have breakfast and do laundry with Ma & Pa. The gang got together once again for an AYCE lunch at the Chinese buffet. Then, I went back to the park to pack up and say "goodbye" to Sue. What a wonderful experience.
That night I made my way to the Cabin. I spent a couple of nights there and bagged a couple more 4,000’ers, Abraham and Sugarloaf. I now have just two 4,000’ peaks left in New England.
While at the Cabin, I met three British guys looking for a ride to Boston. All three ended up joining me on my Sugarloaf hike and one even joined me for Abraham. After that hike, we drove as far as Gorham and settled into Hiker’s Paradise where I caught up with Rambunny.
Rambunny had recently twisted an ankle but was all right and hiking strong again. But, she’s ready to slow down and no longer plans to yoyo. But from my perspective, nothing is cut in stone and there may still be a chance she’ll yoyo after all.
The next day, I drove back to Boston by way of the Kancamagus Highway and route 11 past Lake Winnepesauke in NH and then Gloucester and Salem in MA.
I spent a day getting helping the Brits get their bearings and then saw them off as I went to work on Tuesday.
While I was certainly disappointed at not being able to do a "thruhike" of the Cohos Trail, I know there’s no way I could have possibly had as much fun as I ended up having during plans, B, C, D, and E of my vacation.
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