Embrace the New Chapter

Initially was going to start this post with a ‘sorry I haven’t posted in a while’. But I am not. This last month or so I have been sorting things out for myself. Clearing my head and determining my next life steps. In October I celebrated my 48th birthday, it was similar to an out of body experience. I was surrounded by people but alone. It is a strange yet familiar place for me. People look at me but they don’t actually see me for who I truly am. There is so much about me they do not know, at times I can see in the faces filling in the blanks with what makes them comfortable. Who will they decide that I am?

In Portland for my birthday I explored the city, trails and saw old friends. Mainly I was there for the ALDHA West Gathering, a hiker get together that includes speakers, Trail Angel/Triple Crown Awards and Board elections. I won a sweet Hyperlite backpack playing bingo and the 60’s costume contest!

The Triple Crown award presentation was enjoyable, I did a very short acceptance speech, it was recorded but I haven’t seen it yet, it was kinda a blur.

TC photo

That’s where the Board elections come in. I ran for a member at large seat. It seemed like a great way meet other hikers, learn more about long distance hiking/conservation and offer my skills as a way to give back to the community. I won! I was shocked (there were some other great candidates) then excited.

group aldha

ALDHA West board members '19
ALDHA West Board Members

So it’s gonna be a busy and excited winter learning new things, meeting new people, working with the board and living in Tahoe. That’s a whole lot of new.

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!!

Magic- Olivia N. John

“You have to believe we are magic
Nothin’ can stand in our way.
You have to believe we are magic
Don’t let your aim ever stray
And if all your hopes survive
Your destiny will arrive”

So its day 3 or 4 in the 100 mile wilderness. Its hard to say really the days blurr together. Hike-Eat-Sleep (try not to trip and die) repeat. I get up with the sun grab my cold coffee/carnation breakfast drink, stuff everything in my pack and hike.
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After the short mile day due to rain/hail I was excited to get going. I knew once I climbed over the White Cap mountain I could pull some higher miles. The boys (Sparkle, Gloworm, Newt & Walkietalkie) flew by me on the climb. They are all thru hiking the entire trail. I have a new respect for anyone who does the whole AT in one hike. This trail can grind you down, it takes a lot to push through. Their encouragement as they passed fired up my motivation. (They pass me a lot!) It was an enjoyable 18 mile day, plus I snagged a sweet camp spot right near a beautiful river! I didn’t even care my batteries were all failing (headlamp, phone and back up charger) or that my water filter bag sprung a leak.

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Remember when I gave my food away to hiker running low? Well the trail does provide….the next day at the first road crossing a surprise! Fresh Grounds LeapFrog Cafe was all set up, I had a tasty cheeseburger hot off the grill!!

 

Thanks again FreshGround! The best trail magic is a surprise! With snacks in my pack and a burger in my belly I was ready to make a run for Kathadin!!

The Middle- Jimmy Eat World

“Hey / Don’t write yourself off yet / It’s only in your head you feel left out or looked down on”

So I’m mixing things up a bit. Headed into the 100 mile wilderness northbound. Then back to southbound the the rest, since my flight is out of Portland anyway. I’ve been a bit anxious, tired and emotional (pacemaker gave me her bacon this morning and i teared up, agh) Everyone’s pretty excited about finishing and the triple crown. My head/heart just isn’t there, yet. The end is near, almost.

Like the hills out here my emotions have been up and then down. I feel unsteady and unsure like the rocks under my feet. Even though there is predicted rainy weather ahead I’m good with being on trail and i hate hiking in the rain. Hoping these next will will be instrumental in sorting myself out.

Yesterday was stressful trying to find my box. After a frustrating call or two it was found, right where it was supposed to be. Thanks Kassy, now I have everything a girl could need for 100 miles in the woods!!

Great stay at Shaws hostel, amazing breakfast and they are very helpful. So onto the wilderness…..see ya on the flip side.

Lonely Together -Avicii

In the end we are our stories…..
We (Coco, Nemo and i) stayed 2 nights at the Human Nature Hostel (maybe it was the bacon wrapped scallops and beet salad dinner that convinced us, seriously so good. It also kept us out of the rain storm) If you happen to be in Roxbury, NH check it out. We slack packed( day’s worth of thru-hiking without a full pack) 10 miles the second day, then did laundry and showered again! Then a quick run to the store for food resupply.

Food resupply is getting tricky. My daytime appetite is still wonky. Towns are getting further from trail, so I need to carry/eat more food so I can keep hiking. Getting on trail by 6am I can feel myself shutting down about 3pm. Then it’s all I can do to stumble to camp to eat…..corn chips and cheese. I have a pack full of corn chips and cheese, also carnation instant breakfast..hmmm.
Tomorrow we hike 14 miles, then I will leave Coco and Nemo they are going into town. We’ve had a string good days hiking together, hate to see them go. They are both finishing off AT section hikes too! See you on the Camino!

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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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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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!