CNOC Trekking Pole – Review

(Sorry this should’ve posted this weekend…technical difficulties)

So I got my hands on some new trekking poles! The CNOC Vertex Carbon Trekking poles, a serious step up from the last ones I got at Walmart. These poles are the z type trekking pole, but not fixed length. This tripped me up when I first got them. Luckily there is a video explaining how to put them together on their site! So there is a push button connector, when extended I really like this z type pole as they tend to be more compact. As someone who uses poles less than most, i.e. they spend a lot of time in my outer pack pocket, I like that the are not protruding out like antennas.

There is a foam handle then a foam grip just below that. There is a cork version which is great if you have sweaty hands. But if you are camping be sure to not to leave your poles out, critters like to chew on the sweaty salty cork.

So each pole come in at only 7.7 ounces, together that is less than a pound, if your counting! They do come with a spiffy carrying case, snow and mud baskets and rubber tips(for pavement or concrete). I’m always looking for inexpensive, quality gear that can do double duty. These are actually a great deal price wise….right now they are on sale!  I’ve already used them on few urban and local canyon hikes. Can’t wait to try them in the snow! (I’m so looking forward to this winter!) I’ll let you know how that goes!

Go ahead, go check them out! The holidays are coming, yo!

What a Feeling – Irene Cara

this is a long post……but worth it!

On the morning we were to climb Katahdin we were all pretty excited to get going. All packed up and ready to go by 6 am. There was a quick stop at the ranger station. You can borrow a day-pack or just leave some of your things there. This was pretty nice since there was really no need to haul everything up there and back. Now the climb is only about 5.2 miles, however this is the AT so yeah. All the fast kids took off as soon as we hit the trail, I fell back. It’s kinda like a race remember to go your own pace. Sparkle is from Boston and offered to give us a ride out of the park afterwards. The plan was to hike the Hunt Trail up then hike the Abol trail down to the campground. Everyone said the Abol trail was shorter, yea, later I would find out it’s also the steepest descent!

I was cool with hiking alone, it was time for me to process the fact that this was it the big finish. The trail started out just fine….then came the boulders.  Not surprised, it never gets easy the last day should be hard too, consistency. So I checked my map, only 2.3 miles to go! Yes I can do that. Pushing hard, I pulled my using the metal hand holds anchored in the rocks. Sweating, breathing hard and swatting those annoying bugs I leaned on a boulder. Now I’m not great with guessing distances but I felt I was really moving. So I checked the map, bad idea. 2.0 miles to go, WHAT!?! That .3 had felt like a mile. The steeper, exposed climb and alpine section were still ahead. oh no.

My mind took over….crap everyone is gonna summit and be down, what if they leave me? I know I can make it but when? Wait wasn’t there talk of rain, what if a storm rolls in? What if there is no Santa Claus? ahhhh. Just then I glanced a saw Glowworm climbing up behind me! “Hey chardonnay, you can do this.. congrats on that triple crown..he said passing me.”  Mentally when you’re not in a good-place on trail, it’s the other hikers you draw strength from, solo hiker or not.  With that I was moving, behind the boys (again), but moving. I’d see the others coming down as I still climbed, but their words of encouragement and a hurry up gave me wings!!

katahdin sign

My first glimpse of the sign, it stopped me in my tracks.

Like a highlight reel it all flashed through my mind. All that I had done to get there, all that I had given up, been through, suffered through, the highs and the lows. I’d do it all again…well most of it. Now let me get a picture and get off this mountain!

My elation was short lived…on the way down I stumbled, ok fell, cut up my hand. There was blood, I would live. But it did not help with the steep climb down. At the bottom everyone was waiting…..and there was cold soda, chips, and sandwich’s!

So there I sat drinking warm Chardonnay, swatting bugs…..now what?

 

 

Thank you for the music -ABBA

Pretty much my last day in the 100 mile wilderness, it rained. For like 20 miles I hiked in the rain. I was not all that happy about it, mostly because it would rain then kinda stop, then start again. Wearing the Frogtogg poncho I snagged from a hiker box, I draped my other poncho over my pack. As if I wasn’t wet enough I tripped getting mud all over my skirt. That was also about the time when I realized I’d lost my bandanna all my friends had signed.

Needing a distraction I put on some tunes. Lauren Hill sang as the trail winded around lakes (heck it might have been the same lake). Maine is like Minnesota great trails, lots of lakes and a gazillion bugs! Next up Christina Aguilera’s Dirty, rain or not you just gotta dance to that! So I did, right thru the puddles straight to the shelter. I immediately set up my tent (in the shelter) and climbed into my sleeping bag in a wet skirt and top. I knew my body heat would dry them over night, the wet socks and pants were left out to fend for themselves.

There were a bunch if soggy southbounders at the shelter too. Strange listening them chat as they begin their thru hikes while my hike comes to an end. There was so much I didn’t know when I started my first thru hike. Maybe its better that way. Too much prep and info spoils the surprise. Embrace the suck and be open to fact there is more to learn.

Me & Hummingbird!   Rain drove us into the shelter but didn’t dampen our fun!

The next morning I pulled on wet socks and started the process of getting to Katahdin, and it is a process. Step1 hike 3 miles to the camp store for an all you can eat breakfast. Step2 discuss with hikers how many hikers are going to be at campsite and how many are actually allowed; even though no one knows for sure either number. Step3 get so full you forget to buy dinner, snacks or summit food. Doh! Step4 Enjoy a beautiful sunny 10 mile hike to the hiker reserved campsite. Step5 sign up with ranger to climb Katahdin… So glad to spend my last night in the woods with a cool bunch of hikers because tomorrow is summit day! Even Hummingbird was there, I hadn’t seen her since Vermont!

20180629_080331Mt Katahdin!!

No Rain, No Pain, No Maine….

So there’s been pain and rain….guess who’s in Maine!! Man, New Hampshire did not ease up. I survived the White Mtns and the Presidential range, but my shoes did not. I got to the town of Gorham, stayed the night to rest but rolled ankle and get new shoes. I bush whacked my way up to the AT and ran into some old buddies!

 

My hiker bubble now also includes Nemo, Coco, Rainbow and Sketch. Good group, we hike are own pace ending up at the same shelter. Hard to believe I’m in Maine, the days are flying by…two days ago I went through Mahoosac Notch (one of the hardest and most fun sections of the AT). It was certainly fun. It was not hiking…It was straight up rock/boulder scrambling. Now the Mahoosac Arm after it was a grueling climb up 1500 ft in under a mile.

 


That was tough I was so happy to get to the shelter and SIT DOWN. It was a good day. With a storm coming we hiked out at 5am, but still got rained on as we summited. Nemo and I crossed the bald with ponchos whipping in the wind and rain. Then with the help of ropes & ladders decended. With our new found speed we covered 9 miles and got to the shuttle stop 3 hours early!!

 

Luckily ‘Sherpa’ stopped, on his way home from fishing, and offered us a ride (and beer). Staying at the Human Nature Hostel, it’s a cool wooden geodesic dome with a huge hot shower and WIFI!! I’m easy to please. Plus the owner has been on Naked and Afraid like multiple times!

 

It’s weird I’m not tired but my knees and feet hurt. When I get tired I think of this young lady I met on trail. She works at the Carter Notch hut. Supplies have to be hiked in. She was carrying 2 turkeys, dry goods and a body pillow, uphill for 3.6 miles with this contraption. She was so cheery and happy when I met her at the top! It made me happy and I still had to climb!

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Up & Up – Coldplay

I’ve been meaning to post, but well things change by the minute out here. So here’s what’s up.

So Moosilauke was my biggest nightmare. It took me just as long getting up as it did coming down. It was tough. Slippery rocks and roots that reach up an grab. I tumbled and fell so many times I lost count. My knees and ankles really hurt, but I survived to climb again, immediately thereafter. I tried to make the shelter where everyone was headed  but no. So I hiked/camped alone for quite a while. It is really hard to just camp out here, you are like always on the side of a mountain and there’s lots of brush.

I’ve been trying to pick up the pace. Found myself a little bubble of cool people. They all have trail legs cuz they have been hiking since Georgia or Harper’s Ferry. I was concerned about the White/Presidential Mountains the climbs are tough for me but I was super happy to be above tree line! I was avoiding the huts as the work for stay is confusing.

The huts are nice but at $100 a night, woah. They allow thru hikers to work then stay in the dinning room but it makes for a tiring evening. I rather stealth camp or pay $5 at a camp site.

Mother nature was on my side and I was feeling good on the climb to Mt. Washington. I put my tunes on and danced my way up. It’s bike week here so there were tons of Harley clad bikers at the top. (Yes, you can drive up or take a cog train!)


I should have did less dancing because the downhill took a bit. Instead of making the campsite I only made it to the next hut! So guess who did work for stay? It wasn’t bad, I got chicken, rice, peas and dessert. Then I did some dishes. Some other hikers came in 5 of us stayed the night. They clarified I was near the end of the group, but a guy named Fresh Ground would be doing trail magic the next day.

My love of being above tree line ended the next morning. We climbed up and over Madison at 4000 feet with 50 mpg winds. That wind catching your pack while balancing on uneven rocks, ok, ok back in the trees.

When I hit Pinkcom Notch I was back in knee ankle pain territory, and none to excited about hiking up Wildcat on the other side. But a true trail angel was waiting to lift my spirits!

Fresh Ground has been moving along with this pack of hikers for awhile. He had real ground beef cheese burgers, cookies, fruit, pie, chips..I said just a tiny burger, he made a huge one and said ‘you need this’. I did. Thank you, Fresh Ground.

These are the days you hike through the crap for. People like Fresh Ground (he is all the way up here from N. Carolina) that go out of there way to make your journey better. I spent the afternoon chatting and eating with current/previous hikers. I should have hiked on (as there is rainy weather looming) but I just couldn’t go.

So…..I’m stealth camping tonight with some others at the tail of the group. Tomorrow I will tackle the Wildcat climb and as much of the 21 miles between here and Gorham as I possibly can before the rain.

Everyone knows I am going for my triple crown, I feel pressure to be faster or better. It’s pressure I admittedly put on myself. I know, hike your own hike right….

Roar – Katy Perry

Laying here in the hostel bed, everyone’s sleep but me. Can’t sleep, in the morning I will wish I had. Tomorrow we tackle Moosilauke and enter the White Mountains. I have no idea what challenges are ahead but I know they are out there.

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I try to sound confident and casual as I talk with other hikers. But my own concerns and fears I keep to myself. It’s been nice at the hostel meeting other hikers but it also makes me anxious. Hiking alone up till now I make my own pace, distance and choices. Now that I’ve met people I feel a pull to keep up, I feel slow.

Deep down I know the trail is about to school me. This next section will be physically, mentally and emotionally taxing, truth.

Become the Mountain Lion by refusing to hide in the cave of your own shyness or uncertainty. Roar with conviction roar with power and remember to roar with laughter for balance.

Thats what my cards read before I left. Really I pull the Mountain lion card! Couldn’t I have pulled the sloth or maybe a turtle. Fine (clears throat) I’m ready roar.

What I think I’m like roaring…

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Reality….

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I’m Not Ok (I Promise) -My Chemical Romance

I escaped the Hanover vortex. It can be so hard to leave the comforts of town. After dinner with friends, trail angel pampering, even a neighborhood birthday party, who wants to head back in the woods! I slack packed the 8 miles into Hanover with Liz, it was fun hiking and chatting with a West coast buddy. Liz was in Maryland when I first did the AT now she lives in New Hampshire. Thanks for everything Liz!


I dragged myself up to the Moose Mtn shelter and had it all to myself so I set my tent up inside. It rained the next morning so I was glad. The rain let up so I took off, made a run for the cabin at tge base of the fire tower. The last mile was a killer, so many slippery rocks. Got to the cabin at 8 pm.

I had high hopes of making it to the hostel the next day. That didn’t  happen got within 3 miles and crashed in a camp spot with another hiker, Gardener. After getting rained on and a climb I was happy to stop. I had been hoping for hot noodles but I only had flavored water (since i hadn’t planned on camping). Not matter how cold you are hot ramen and mashed potatoes with flavored water is NOT good. I forced it down.

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Mmm, cherry flavored dinner!

It was a quick hike into the hostel the next morning, it was super early but ran into my first southbounders!
It’s about to get real. Next up….Moosilauke and the White Mountains. Man, I should have trained more, these climbs are torture. Moosilauke is a rough 4,800 ft climb and treacherous. Yeah. With the current dreary wet, chilly weather I have some concerns. Picked up a fleece from the hiker box as there are rumors of snow on Mt. Washington, I hope not, geez.

They say you pack your fears and cold is mine. Soon enough I’ll be whining about the heat & humidity, oh AT why must you toy with me? No rain, no pain, no Maine.

Too Hot -Kool in the Gang

First I want to give a shout out to the couple from LA that gave me a lift into Bennington thanks for dropping me right where I needed to be! Also to Andrea who was not going my direction but went 30 mins out of her way to get me to town.

Now, after Bennington why did I have to go to town again so soon? Well this is the part of the hike where things start to go wrong. First my tent zipper decided to go south. Fine not really a big deal, it kinda zips so I can manage. But then sitting in my tent the next evening my sleeping pad decides it’s done. Really? Yes really. It just deflated. FML oh well, guess I’m trying to get to Hanover to find patches or a replacement. Thus is life on the trail…..

But wait there’s more, it was cold for like a minute…then it got hot and humid, really humid, then it rained. I got heat rash (I guess, never had it before & I’m not doctor) so I kept hiking, of course…it got worse. It was painful, I was walking funny but I got to Hanover an things turned around.

A trail angel took me to Lebanon to get a new pad then dropped me at Bill & Betsy’s house. I met their son Karl on the PCT ’15! Betsy and her husband live practically an the AT, hosting hundreds of hikers (I’m the first this year!) After a shower & laundry we chatted over the best thai salad I’ve ever had.

The trail is tough and at times painful. Hiking with a girl I just met ‘hummingbird’ (she’s from sun valley, id) we joked about why we even put ourselves through this. We didn’t come up with a clear answer.

What I do know is I’m touched by the generosity of people every time I’m out here. The simplest act of kindness can mean so much, rippling out to many others.

East coast, West coast, Mexico, Canada, black, white….we are all connected. Now what up with this weather?

Ain’t no mountain high enough – The Supremes

So, it was a rough start. The trip to the trail wore me out. Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts is high enough at 3,491′ the highest peak in the state. I decided to rehike it. (At the summit is where I got off trail last time) Why, not sure. Maybe I thought I needed a kick in the pants. Well I got it. I planned to get water at Bascom Lodge at the top….it was closed, doh! Two other southbound hikers were there looking for water also, so I wasn’t the only one that didn’t read the closed note in the guide.

 

 

They told me there was a spring ahead and plenty of water in Vermont. That could be good and not good. (Trail tip: if you see water…get it, do not wait) I had to drag myself 4 miles before I got water. Geez, you’d think this was my first gig.

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Veterans Memorial – Mt. Greylock

After rehydrating, setting up in a really nice camp site, I slept well. Even with the water mishap and a super climb it was a pretty good hike. I got to see my first bear, he was in hurry and took off, rude. Oh and I saw a porcupine got a fuzzy zoomed in photo, yeah I wasn’t getting any closer.

 

 


So I’m back on trail…and in Vermont (aka Vermud, very muddy my kicks are getting dirty) The AT and the Long trail run together for the next 100 or so miles! So I’ve run into a section hiker and some northbound thru hikers, I will probably never see them again they have trail legs. I’m moving at a snails pace but finding my groove. It is way warmer out here than I expected and those little bugs are out full force. At least they don’t bite but they are annoying AF.

Next up..The Green Mountains, hmmm more climbing. Sweet baby Jesus give me strength!

Thank you for being a friend -Andrew Gold

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People often ask how am I able to take time off and hike the trail for month(s). Well I say, I work hard and a lot. However, there’s another bigger part of the equation. People. By people I mean family, friends, coworkers, and strangers. My family doesn’t completely understand what I do and my mom wishes I didn’t do it at all!! But like every other crazy adventure that I take off on they support me even when they are not sure how.

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again, I have the BEST friends. They have shown up every freakin time, financially and emotionally. Whatever I needed and things I didn’t know I needed. When I needed extra work friends hired me, when I needed a place to live pre/during/post trail they took me into their homes, they gifted me gear and threw going away parties and camp outs. They sent packages, watched/repaired my car and took phone calls from the trail keeping me up on goings on at home.

Because I work for months at a time I work with a staffing agency (Ultimate Staffing). Vicki has been on it for the last three years, finding me great long/short term positions with great companies. My current assignment is with a auto dealership and it’s been a great job with fun people. Super happy that they want me back, they celebrated my departure with tasty food (carbs and meatballs!!) and gifts!

 

Thanks Apothekayla for the healing salve!

Then there are the strangers, aka friends I haven’t met yet. People who follow my blog/Instagram, leave supportive comments, messages, jokes, tips and donations. This is so over whelming at times it brings me to (good)tears.

Gracias     Merci Beaucoup      Grazie     Danke sehr   Mahalo

I’m out there hiking the miles, adventuring, ‘living the dream’ but it wouldn’t happen without my awesome support crew! I never walk alone! So much love and kindness. Thank you all for ALL THE THINGS and being on this journey with me.

I love y’all………..yep you!