And done.

March 30 – August 5.  4 months 5 days. Roughly 12-16 Zero Days.  Maybe 20-24 if you add in “Nearos”.   Nothing but you and the trail.  Convincing your mind to wander or be distracted for 10-12 hours a day.  No definitive plan.  Time and days meld into the next. Pain.  Hiker Hunger.  Green Tunnels.  Rain.  Mud. Working your way through various aches and pains and sometimes injuries, that come along the away.  No soft beds, warm showers, cell, TV, or computers.  Trail stench. Truly unplugging from the business of the world.  Knowing yourself better.  Considering other trails to hike.  New friends.  Trail names.   Experiences to share and stories to tell.  Embracing the journey and growing as a person.  Joining the Class of 2017.  And done.

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The last summit was a difficult one as there there is over 4000 feet incline over a 5 hour hike.  Most of the incline is up because it appears the AT does not use switchbacks.  The rocks were wet and slippery.   The summit was encased in clouds so no vista to be seen.  This was our view from the bottom of the mountain.

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While Lauren was doing her last day, SG and I attempted to do a hike around one of the ponds where the trail promised lots of nature to be sighted.  SG had read all the hikes and picked this one because of this.  She really wanted to see a moose, in person.  I should have known we’d be in trouble when we pulled up to the trail head and the car was swarmed by mosquitoes.  Before opening the doors, we put our first line of defense on for them (more natural bug sprays/oils).   Opening the doors resulted in an invasion.  Pulled out the Cutters with DEET,   This seemed to back them off so we headed out.  About 100 years into the hike,  we were covered with biting mosquitoes.  SG had been bitten several times on her face and was done.  I have at least 20 bites on the back of each leg.   Poor girl was swelling so much I gave her Benedryl to calm the reaction down. It took driving with windows down for a bit to get the mosquitoes out of the car.  We have met Maine Mosquitoes and they have won!

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We opted for hiking and playing around Toque Pond where the mosquitoes were more reasonable  and the water warm to wade in.  We spend a great time discussing the various patterns on rocks we saw and wondering what Aunt Lauren might be doing at the moment.  We saw a hawk of sorts with a beautiful call.  We picked them up at Roaring Stream and then drove back around to pick up gear left on the other side before heading back into town for showers and food.

 

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On Sunday, we made a stop at the Appalachian Cafe, only open until 4pm, for breakfast the next day.  Lauren added herself to the “Class of 2017”, the ceiling panels that the Cafe has hikers who have completed the trail sign. Their ceiling is covered in panels of “classes”.   The food was great.  There was a brief contemplation of attempting the 14 scoop sundae (one scoop for every state you hiked through) before deciding that was too much on top of the hiker breakfast.

 

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The return to the “real world” is an interesting transition.  Food, laundry, black bags for the backpacks due to the trail stink.  Food.  Ours involves driving down seeing other parks and sites as we do, thus limited the cell coverage.   The plan is to be back to civilization by August 11 where we’ll put her on a plane to meet Travis.   And more food.  I am listening to the sound of constant munching as we drive around.  It’s pretty impressive.   We did have an amazing meal in Bel Harbor Maine, where I got a lobster roll after being assured it was not coated in mayo and Lauren got Surf and Turf.  The brussel sprouts and dessert were amazing.

 

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Part of return, involved bringing Kyle back down to the New York area where his Uncle will pick him up.  Kyle has been a constant in the fabric of this hike.  He’s been there and been able to keep up with Lauren.  There is a comfort in knowing Lauren had a trail family.  It’s nice to know someone can call if something  bad were to happen.  He’s been a blessing and we hope the connect remains.

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While our (the Caler’s)  participation has been vicarious, our lives have been so enriched over the past two summers.  The PCT and AT have brought us closer to Lauren and Travis as we support them in any way that we can.  The AT has been awesome as it provided us the chance to meet Lauren in different places, to spend quality time together, and to get to know each other in different ways then we has before.  We are so thankful to have them both in our lives.  I have spent more time hiking in the last summer than I have in 25 years because I had sworn off it.  I’ve gotten out of my comfort box and as a family, found another activity to do together.  SG loves it so we’ll definitely be doing it more along with camping.  I need to get one of those fancy blowup mattresses and a better sleeping bag that are both more portable (you can check out a blogs from back in May/June to see how crazy our gear is).  Lauren continues to be SG’s hero and we are blessed that SG has such strong woman to be one of her role models.

 

Lauren embraced the journey (and suck) and finished well.

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As with last time, this is my final post.  Lauren and Travis will take over from here.  It’s been a wonderful journey to live vicariously.  Thanks for taking it with me.

~ Linda =)

 

 

Birches – Mile 2184.6

What a journey and adventure.  Mile 2184.6 brings Dust Buster and AT AT Walker to the Birches Camp Ground, the final camp site before completing the last summit, Mt. Katahdin.  We are all here were we are suppose to be.

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SG and I shared a meal with Lauren and Kyle, a couple from Belgium, and 2 other hikers who Lauren and Kyle have been crossing paths with.  It’s wonderful to share food or break bread, listen to stories, and enjoy everyone’s company as they plan for the last big push.

SG and I will hike an much more moderate trail tomorrow.  We have to try out our new trekking poles.  Jeff has them sent to us at the hotel and SG is over the moon as she’s a “real hiker” now.  It’s very sweet to watch her strive to match her Aunt Lauren and hard to watch her struggle with our decision that the hike to Mt Katahdin via the AT was way beyond both of us.  I think I’m committing to some hiking as SG seems to really enjoy this.

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Tomorrow we’ll plan to meet them around 3-5pm.  Then it’s town food,  laundry, a hot tub, and real bed as we plan our trip back to Maryland.

I would be remiss to not mention that Lauren and Kyle checked in at the Birches.   They are now hikers 248 and 249.   This is really amazing.  Lauren logged into the AT as hiker 1378, logged in at Harper’s Ferry as 470, and now is Hiker 248.   Kyle’s numbers are similar as he logged into the AT as hiker 1381, Harper’s as 471, and is now 249.   They have passed all of these hikers before them over the course of 5 months to reach these amazing numbers.  The feat of completing a thru hike is challenging and an accomplishment.  To have done so at the pace they  have, is truly amazing.  They are an inspiration.   They say “Don’t just finish the hike.  Finish it well.”  They are both in good shape, uninjured, and set for tomorrow.

Until tomorrow,

~ Linda

 

 

Shrooms…..

I have to admit I’m very impressed with the number of different mushrooms that Lauren has found to take pictures of.  And in another time (without two jobs, 3 kids, 4 dogs…etc), I would look up all of these pretties!

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This is a short post to just share these pictures as they are so fascinating and beautiful.  Their different shapes and colors are amazing.   Some so simple.  Others so ornate (if a mushroom can be termed ornate.  Shares that vary.  Where and the way they grow, so different. So a different post.

Enjoy,

~ Linda =)

Monson ME 2075.3

Received a call from Lauren to check in and for the purposes of planning the pick up next weekend.  They are in Monson, ME at the Shaw’s Hiker Hostel picking up resupplies.   They have reached the 2075.3 mile mark of the trail.  They will head out tomorrow (July 31) for the last week or so of the trail.  All the pictures in this post are from Google images.

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The next segment of hiking is referred to as the “100 Mile Wilderness” which leads into Baxter.  It is considered to be fairly dangerous and only for hikers of “advanced means”.

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“The Hundred-Mile Wilderness is the section of the Appalachian Trail running between Abol Bridge just south of Baxter State Park and Monson in the state of Maine. It is generally considered the wildest section of the Appalachian Trail,[1] and one of the most challenging to navigate and traverse. This section of the A.T. is crossed by several logging roads and is maintained by the Maine Appalachian Trail Club. It consists of a small corridor of protected wilderness surrounded by large tracts of public and private land controlled by paper companies. An increasing amount of the adjoining lands are being protected by groups like the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Nature Conservancy.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundred-Mile_Wilderness).

I found these slides to sum it up:

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There are a few summits that Lauren will have text service only, so plan on not hearing much from her until August 5 when they come off the trail.   Getting connected at Birch may be interesting without cell phones but I’m pretty sure if we get there about 4pm and wait for them, we’ll connect.  =)

The current hiking plan for those following along:

  • Monday – 18.9 miles – camping at Cloud Pond Lean-to (2094.4)
  • Tuesday – 24 miles – camping at Logan Brook Lean-to (2118.4)
  • Wednesday – 23.1 miles – camping at Potaywadjo Spring Lean-to (2141.5)
  • Thursday – 18.2 miles – camping at Rainbow Stream Lean-to (2159.7)
  • Friday 24.9 miles- camping at the Birches Lean-to (2184.6) which is the base of Mt. Katahdin.
  • Saturday 5.2 miles to the summit of Mt. Katahdin and the completion of the trail.

The last 5.2 miles up is reported to be fairly difficult.  The exciting thing, in talking to Lauren, there is another trail “The Saddle” which is an easier trail (still in the moderate to difficult range) which SG and I will look at to see if we can hike up that to meet them as they are coming down.  I had ruled out hiking with them because we had gone from easy trails to difficult and the trail was 19.5 miles round trip.  Starting at Birches or the Saddle trail head, makes the trail about 10 miles round trip if we were to reach the summit.  If we hike up while they come down, we meet and hike the rest of the way out.

I have about 72 hours before we depart.  On this more rocky, difficult terrain, it makes me wonder if trekking poles might not be a decent investment.

Until the next check-in or we get to Millinocket, ME,

~Linda =)

Planning for Pick up

I’ve been in touch with Lauren as we are planning for the pick up from Mt. Katahdin on or about August 5.  It really has gone by fast, especially as the our plans (Caler’s) were to follow Lauren through the White Mountains and such during the month of August with her end date being September 1-3.  What an amazing trip this has been for us to watch her excel. The Pacific Crest Trail really prepared her for this hike.

Bigelow Hike

On Monday, July 24, they were at mile 2006.7.  This is the Horn’s Pond Lean-to for sleeping.  They are in Maine now, around Stratton, in the Bigelow Range.  Some of the reading I’ve done online about this, indicate the Bigelow Trail is considered to be the 2nd best hike, 2nd to the Katahdin hike (their end).  It’s considered to be a very difficult trail.  It mentions to “pack the Aleve”!  (https://www.northeasthikes.com/hike-bigelow-mountain-via-appalachian-trail/) .  As this was a text update with a mile marker, I don’t have pictures of what they are seeing outside of what I’ve gathered from the internet.

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Planning for the pick up.  We had hoped to camp in Baxter State Park only to find that all the camping has been spoken for.  =(  Boo.  So we found a great hotel for $85.00/night which has a pool (three cheers from SG) and a hot tub (many cheers from Lauren and Kyle).  Reservations made, check.

  • Plans to stop and see a former co-worker from Oregon, now residing over in the Syracuse, NY and spend the night there. – check
  • 2nd night at the Whites.  Maybe a small hike there
  • Hotel room in a hotel with a pool (for SG) and a hot tub for hikers.  Check.
  • Tent and sleeping bags (I need a better pad so am bringing an air mattress – glamping) – Check
  • Insect repellent/Sunscreen/First Aid. – check
  • Plan for meeting Lauren and Kyle on Aug 4, when they camp at the base of Mt. Katahdin.  We’ll bringing them some Trail Magic.and stay until they are ready for bed. ( We’ll head back to our hotel about 30 miles away.  With the Park speed limit of 20 miles/hour, it may take us a bit to get home. ) – check

There will be more check off on the list as we actually start packing the car today (Sunday).  There is no real plan for how fast we’ll get back to Maryland at this point.  We’ll have to see when we get closer!

Until the next check-in,

~ Linda =)

Mile 1800 – New Hampshire and the Whites

The July 22 check-in at mile 1800 which put them at at the White Mountains.  Lovely park.  Lauren met up with a friend, Professor Elliot Fisher and stay there before heading off into the Whites.

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We had the chance to visit the White Mountains National Forest back when we went to visit Kim when she lived in Maine.  We drove down and it was an amazing, beautiful drive.  We drove up Mt Washington, the highest peak in the Park to the weather observatory.   Ironically, without any planning on my part, I’m reading a book called “Following Atticus” by Tom Ryan.  It’s book about his hiking of the White Mountains with Atticus, his dog.  It’s been a great read so far and I would recommend it.

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A bit more about the White Mountains:

“The White Mountains are a mountain range covering about a quarter of the state of New Hampshire and a small portion of western Maine in the United States. They are part of the northern Appalachian Mountains and the most rugged mountains in New England. The range is heavily visited due to its proximity to Boston and, to a lesser extent, New York City and Montreal.

Most of the area is public land, including the White Mountain National Forest and a number of state parks. Its most famous mountain is 6,288-foot (1,917 m) Mount Washington, which is the highest peak in the Northeastern U.S. and for 76 years held the record for fastest surface wind gust in the world (231 miles per hour (372 km/h) in 1934). Mount Washington is part of a line of summits, the Presidential Range, that are named after U.S. presidents and other prominent Americans.

The White Mountains also include the Franconia Range, Sandwich Range, Carter-Moriah Range and Kinsman Range in New Hampshire, and the Mahoosuc Range straddling the border between it and Maine. In all, there are 48 peaks within New Hampshire as well as one (Old Speck Mountain) in Maine over 4,000 feet (1,200 m), known as the Four-thousand footers.

The Whites are known for a system of alpine huts for hikers operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club. The Appalachian Trail crosses the area from southwest to northeast” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Mountains_(New_Hampshire))

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About Mount Washington:

“Mount Washington, called Agiocochook by some Native American tribes, is the highest peak in the Northeastern United States at 6,288.2 ft (1,916.6 m) and the most prominent mountain east of the Mississippi River.

The mountain is notorious for its erratic weather. On the afternoon of April 12, 1934, the Mount Washington Observatory recorded a windspeed of 231 miles per hour (372 km/h) at the summit, the world record for most of the 20th century, and still a record for measured wind speeds not involved with a tropical cyclone.[4][a]

The mountain is located in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains, in the township of Sargent’s Purchase, Coös County, New Hampshire. While nearly the whole mountain is in the White Mountain National Forest, an area of 60.3 acres (24.4 ha) surrounding and including the summit is occupied by Mount Washington State Park.

The Mount Washington Cog Railway ascends the western slope of the mountain, and the Mount Washington Auto Road climbs to the summit from the east. The mountain is popular with hikers (the Appalachian Trail crosses the summit). Other common activities include glider flying, and annual cycle and running races such as the Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb and Road Race.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Washington_(New_Hampshire)

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There have been some challenges with the summer storms bringing high winds at a tropical storm level, lightening, and inches of rain.  The terrain is getting rockier, steeper, and more challenging.  Cell connection is dropping due to lack of towers and the dips in the hike where there is no coverage until they reach the peak.  There are longer breaks from civilization.

Until the next check in.

~ Linda

 

 

Bennington, VT and everything in between

Lauren has reached Bennington, Vermont.  Jeff and SG were not able to meet her as planned due to all of our “normal” house sitters being unavailable to watch the Zoo!  Super sadness on SG’s part as well as Aunt Lauren.  Only 4 more weeks before we depart MD with Huck and Finn to meet her in Maine! She was able to go and pick up her food box and maps.  =)

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Some information about Bennington:

Bennington is a town in Bennington County, Vermont, in the United States. It is one of two shire towns (county seats) of the county, the other being Manchester.[4][5] The population is 15,431, as of 2014 US Census estimates.[6] Bennington is the most populous town in southern Vermont, the third-largest town in Vermont (after Essex and Colchester) and the sixth-largest municipality in the state including the cities of Burlington, Rutland, and South Burlington in the count.

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The town is home to the Bennington Battle Monument, which is the tallest human-made structure in the state of Vermont. The town has ready access to natural resources and waterpower, and a long history of manufacturing, primarily within wood processing. The town is also recognized nationally for its pottery, iron, and textiles. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bennington,_Vermont  )

A little backtracking.  Lauren’s been so good about posting on FB, that I have not felt the urgency to blog.  This being said, I love researching the areas she’s been.

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When reading about Bennington, I was sad to find out this information about the climate:

“Bennington experiences a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfb) with cold, snowy winters and warm to hot, humid summers. Snowfall can vary greatly from year to year. The town can experience snowfall as early as October and as late as April, and the surrounding high country can receive snow as late as May. Nor’easters often dump heavy snow and wind on the town during the winter, and accumulations of one foot of snow or greater are not uncommon when these storms move through the area…..July is typically the wettest month.” ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bennington,_Vermont).   Lauren is reaching VT in July so she may be headed into some more wet hiking.  =(

On to happier times:

Her last post on June 22 was this about her time in New York City:

“Kyle’s uncle Bear met us with the boat underneath the Bear Mt Bridge where we quickly chucked our packs onto the boat and jumped aboard from the rocks as we weren’t supposed to dock there. We then took the boat 35 miles down the Hudson River to New York City. Not many people get to enter the city this way and it provided a unique perspective of the city. We got to travel under the George Washington Bridge down to Manhattan, the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty.

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The original plan was to turn around at that point and head back to the trail but the city was calling our names. We got a wet slip in Brooklyn and ended up spending 2 more days exploring NYC. The first night we stayed in the financial district in lower Manhattan where we went to Wall St. and saw the bull. Kyle thought is was necessary to grab it’s balls.

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From there it was a short walk to The World Trade Center and Memorial.

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The next day we moved hotels to Time Square and I got to walk from lower Manhattan to Central Park. All in all I did about 12 miles that day. As I was making my way through the park a giant storm rolled through leaving me fairly wet and seeking shelter. Fortunately I had my poncho with me and refused to let the rain keep me from seeing the rest of the park. I even got to experience the subway as I was too tired to walk back down the park to the hotel.

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The following day I woke in Time Square and fell asleep on top of a mountain a few more miles north on the Appalachian Trail. What an adventure, I owe Kyle and is uncle a huge thanks for an experience of a lifetime!”

Two days before this, June 20, Lauren shares her experience with New York:

“I have had a real love hate experience with New York. It is quite beautiful, the best scenery so far but the terrain has been wearing me out. We have been rock climbing and scrambling over a ton of rock. Multiple times I have had to throw my trekking poles up and over these ledges so I can use both hands and feet to pull myself up.

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I loved the Bear Mountain area, it was so beautiful. The trees were spaced out with a grassy undergrowth and the granite slabs created an intriguing checked pattern. The vistas were finally worth walking out to and on a clear night sometimes you can get a glimpse of NYC. I particularly enjoyed the trail side zoo at the bottom of the mountain and gave a fair amount of thought to walking off with some of the picnickers food.

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We got off trail at mile 1404 and walked the 3.5 miles to the town of Fort Montgomery/ Highland Falls for a resupply and shower. We are planning on meeting Kyle’s great uncle here and taking his boat down the Hudson River to NYC. This should be an epic adventure.

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Lauren continues to embrace the journey.  As she moves on from Bennington, VT, the cell  service will continue to get worse, the terrain rougher, and the end of the trail closer.   We will hear less from her.

As I type this, I’m sitting in the SeaTac airport waiting for a connecting flight.  I’m going home from the CTMH Convention where the theme was “Who Tells Your Story” and resilience.  I’m blessed to have a chance to help Lauren tell her story and inspired by her resilience in her journey.

Until the next update,

~ Linda =)

 

 

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