Just a week or so into our AT hike we were approached by a Trail Angel named Jimmy. He interviews hikers along the AT. He really liked that our whole family was out thru-hiking the AT and he asked if he could interview us. Of course we agreed. Here is a link to that interview.
Ask any member of The Raven clan which trail of the Triple Crown they enjoyed the most, the answer would be, without any hesitation, the Continental Divide Trail. It passes through some of the most gloriously beautiful, wildest, remote and wide open landscapes. Until I hiked the Appalachian Trail, I did not realize how much I loved a vast and limitless landscape. The beauty stretches on forever. In such places, I am filled with the same expansive euphoria as the land holds before me. Overwhelming joy fills the heart and soul. Whether it is a barren desert, rolling grasslands, a sublime alpine meadow or a breathtaking view from a mountain top, the feeling is the same. Vast scenic landscapes speak directly to human emotions. A raw, loving, and powerful sensation overcomes. As I always assert, my thoughts are far more complex than the ability to express them, thus I am uncertain how to put it in words and not sound silly. Nonetheless, I will do my best. A little me standing before and midst such an immense and powerful scene. An energy surrounds and engulfs. Utter peace abounds. In the moment, I sense loving arms hugging me as if Mother Nature is thanking me for appreciating her. The little me feels significant because I am part of all this. Like most forces of physics, such as gravity and magnetism, their energy output is invisible. I am convinced, there is energy to be found in beauty although the physicist of the world have not discovered this yet. One day they will. Meanwhile I just want to keep immersing myself in such places of magnificent grandeur.
Much of the CDT is not a trail but a swath of land that one walks through. Real quick, the CDT will cure a hiker from being a purist, which is somebody who desires to walk every inch of a long trail. Back in 1996, when Mama and Papa Raven first thru hiked of the Pacific Crest Trail, we set out to be purist. Stubbornly, we were in the mindset that this was the most ethical and righteous way to thru hike a long trail. To hike any other way, was politically incorrect. However, it really is not possible. There is always snow, fire re-routes, mud slides, downed trees that will force a hiker to take another path. Nowadays, The Raven’s goal is to connect every foot step to each other. If we take a detour or an alternate, as long as we walk, and not skip any sections, we are content. From the very beginning in New Mexico, the hiking is from post to post, with no true path in between. Off in the distance a post painted white stands tall, upon reaching that post you visually search for the next one. Numerous alternate routes await the hiker on the CDT. No two people will have walked the same path by the time they reach the other end. Because of this, there is no greater feeling of freedom as the CDT provides compared to the Pacific Crest and Appalachian trails. On the latter trails, one is restricted to a two foot wide path that meanders through the country side. On the CDT, if one does not want to traverse through the snow bound San Jauns, they can take the lower Creede route that will be equally as grand. If one does not want to wade through the Gila River for several days, they can take the High route. On our CDT hike, a million acres of land burned in Montana forcing many trail closures. The only options where to road walk. At first this was disappointing, but with each road walk, we encountered breath taking land. We witnessed a slice of America’s farming and ranching communities. We were not robbed of anything by taking the roads, we just saw something different. In the long distance hiking community there is a common phrase: “Hike your own hike.” Of the three trails of the Triple Crown, the CDT truly embodies this phrase.
To make a list of our favorite areas on the CDT would be impossible because from the very beginning to the very end and everywhere in between would have to be noted. Nonetheless, when I close my eyes as I vision our CDT hike there are certain areas that are vividly clear in my mind. Some of the areas, I can even remember how they smell such as the Aspen tree grooves, fields of lupine flowers and fields of freshly harvested hay. The entire state of New Mexico is a favorite, especially the Gila river and the green meadows filled with dandelions. The bluest skies overhead with never ending rolling puffy clouds flowing across. Hikers quickly grow accustomed to the various shades of green and brown drinking water New Mexico provides, each with a unique flavor. Some flavors where less palatable than others. The greatest skill we learned in New Mexico was the art of crawling underneath barbed wire fencing. Each hiker develops their own technique of crawling through the dusty dirt. Some like scooting on their back, while others prefer their stomachs. The absolute worst condition to crawl under a barbed wire fence is on a rain day, the mud is horrible! The one word that comes to mind to describe our hiking days in New Mexico is “uncomplicated.” It was a simple trail where one’s mind could freely wonder. There were no extreme ups or downs. For the most, the weather we had was near perfect: not too hot, not too cold. However, we did experience a nasty wind storm that stung our legs as they were being sandblasted. Another day, we went to bed with clear skies and woke with four to five inches of snow on our tent. When we stuck our heads out, a thick layer of snow covered everything before us. It was absolutely beautiful!
Where does one begin when describing the CDT in Colorado. The words stunning, glorious, rugged, intense, a magnificent gem come to mind. This is where I will leave my description because I lack the skills of writing to do Colorado justice. However, I will say that while New Mexico is “uncomplicated,” Colorado is the complete opposite. First off, there is the daunting snow bound San Jauns one must face shortly after entering Colorado. They are the first high altitude mountains a north bound thru hiker crosses on the CDT. Hikers have to make a decision whether to travel through them or not. Most often, the decision comes down to that years winter snow levels. In 2017, Colorado had an average snow pack. Ninety percent of the CDT through these mountains was under snow when we came through in June. Apprehension, we decided to hike the San Jauns instead of the lower Creede cutoff. With ice axes, micro spikes, snow shoes and two companions, Treeman and Quicksilver, we entered the mountains and saw them till the end. The San Jauns physically and mentally exhausted and wore us out. All day long, we traversed steep snow covered mountainsides. With just one misstep, one would plummet straight down to the bottom of the valley. Everyday the thought that this could be the last day of my life went through my mind. Thinking about Bling and Whisper, I was second guessing our decision to hike this section. However, the two young Ravens thought it was absolutely a fantastic fun experience! Nonetheless, we made it through. The remainder of Colorado was sure bliss. It was not easy hiking because of the constant high altitude and rugged terrain. I have never seen so much water in a thunderstorm as we experienced in Colorado. However, Wyoming was equally wet. Colorado justly deserves best flowers. The alpine fields were absolutely mind-blowingly beautiful with flowers of every color and shape imaginable. God paid close attention to detail when he designed Colorado.
Another location we fondly remember is the Great Basin of Wyoming. Reading past journals of other hikers left us with much apprehension. Most people have negative views of this section of the CDT. It is said to be a tedious area and something CDT hikers just have to endure. Mundane is the most common complaint as a hiker walks for days through hills of dead brown grass and sage bushes. There is no tree cover for shade on hot days and limited water supply. Yes all this is true, however unlike most other thru-hikers, The Ravens loved the Great Basin. It has a unique beauty all of its own. Everyday was glorious as we hiked the vast grasslands. Often times I felt as if we were hiking through the Serengeti in Africa as pronghorn antelope dotted the landscape. We never grew tired of seeing the wild horses roaming free. Comfortable temperatures and blues sky filled our days. Slight breeze blew the clouds creating cloud shadows racing across the landscape. Delicate pastel hues of the sunsets and sunrises will never be forgotten. Miles past by quickly. There was nothing negative to endure, just another beautiful ecosystem that the Continental Divide Trail passes through.
Further north in Wyoming, the CDT enters the Wind River Range. These mountains are absolutely spectacular and are a true treasure to experience. They are a miniature version of the High Sierras in California that we love so much. We had planned an alternate route through the Cirque of the Towers, an area of high altitude craggy spires of rock in a semi-circle, however, weather did not permit this event to occur. As we came to the Cirque of the Towers cut off, the biggest blackest thunderstorm we have ever seen moved up into the valley. To avoid the high mountain passes with a thunderstorm raging about, we chose the lower route. For the next few hours, we slogged through a deluge of rain pouring down on us as thunder and lightening lit up the sky. The temperature was freezing. A light layer of snow was falling on the mountain peaks above us. By late afternoon, suddenly, it was all over and we had blue sky overhead. Onward north we hiked.
Another place in Wyoming we really enjoyed is Yellowstone National Park and its bubbling pools of hot springs, and geysers. We were there the day of the solar eclipse and the park was deserted. Sun coverage was 98% at Yellowstone. Not good enough for the tourist who wanted to experience 100% sun coverage. Thus we and a handful of other tourist who decided to stay put where rewarded with an unusually quite summer day in Yellowstone.
Soon after we left Yellowstone and entered what we affectionately call Montanaho. Literally the CDT follows the Idaho and Montana boarder. On any given day we never knew which state we were in. A dozen time or more each day, we would travel back and forth between the two. Shortly after hiking into this area, Montana’s big blue sky’s became thick and heavy with smoke. Millions of acres in the state were on fire. For weeks, our hiking was re-routed along numerous paths and roads as we worked our way around five different fire closures. Everyday we woke to a big orange ball rising in the sky. This was the sun obscured by dense smoke. It seemed as if the four of us and the big orange ball were walking together. As evening came, the ball would disappear as we would make camp. In the morning it would greet us and we would set out together once again. Because of trail closures, we missed some quintessential trail destinations like the Pintlers and the Bob Marshall Wilderness. One day we will come back and hike them properly. In our last two weeks on the trail, the snow started to fall, the fires where put out, our orange sun ball went away, and the temperatures plummeted. Being fall way up north, the snow kept falling. There would be a clear day or two, then more snow. Winter was coming and we needed to finish. We waited out a big storm in East Glacier. After it passed, we had a three day clear section before another weather front moved in. Under perfectly blue sky we left East Glacier. Those days were clear and cold. Day time temperatures were in the upper thirty’s but because the sun was out, we were comfortable enough. However night time was down right painfully cold! Our wet socks and shoes froze each night. Finally on October 5, we reached Canada.
My love of the CDT comes with a great concern for its welfare. More and more hikers are attempting long thru-hikes. Roughly three thousand attempt to thru-hike the PCT every year, while nearly 4,000 for the AT. Only three hundred set out on the CDT. On the PCT and AT, trying to find an evening camp site not inhabited by numerous other tents is a difficult task. Often times we would have to push on till dark even if we were exhausted because all possible camp sites were filled with tents. So many people leave everyday from the same terminus causing a huge impact on the land. The quantity of toilet paper is disgusting. If one is not tough enough to bury their waste properly, far away from camp and the trail, then one is not tough enough to be out there. The experienced thru-hiker is just as guilty as the novice. They feel they are too good to carry a trowel. If no trowel is being used, there is no way to dig a proper cat hole. Mother Nature deserves better than that. She baths the human heart and soul in utter beauty and tranquility. She takes away concerns and heavy hearts. Overwhelming joy is what she gives out. In return she is completely disrespected.
On the CDT, I felt like we were on a true grand adventure out in wilderness, far away from day to day life of society. The other trails do offer breath taking beauty, but they are becoming too crowded with tourist, day hikers, weekenders. The areas are easily accessible. I suppose this is actually a good thing that people are getting outside and leaving behind the hustle and bustle of their daily lives and experiencing true peace in mother nature. By going out, hopefully they realize how vital and important wild lands truly are for humans. Nonetheless, I sure did enjoy the uncrowded trails of the CDT. We hiked through areas of the most beautiful wilderness that most people have never heard of. Ridge walks have never been more grand! My deepest desire is that the CDT remains underpopulated with hikers. There is such a push to complete the CDT, and make one solid path from Mexico to Canada. I do not want it to become another amusement park. I say no, leave it just the way it is. It is perfect. **
**After I wrote this I thought about a few areas that were not so perfect. There are numerous sections, a CDT thru-hiker has to share the trail with not only bicyclist, but also motorcycles, ATV s and quads. You will be hiking along having a beautiful tranquil moment, pondering life issues, listening to birds sing, observing the Indian paint brush and lupine lining the trail and the Aspen trees leaves shaking in the breeze, and all of a sudden a loud motorcycle engine off in the distant is upon you. All peace is shattered. I am not a fan of this, but it is the way of the Colorado Trail. This is one area the PCT and AT out do the CDT. The PCT is for hikers and horses only while the AT is strictly for people, except in the Smokey Mountain National Park where horses are permitted.
One of our lasts post, I mentioned that in a few weeks I would write a final blog regarding The Ravens Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hike. A few weeks have long past and now it is months overdue. Nonetheless, better late than never. The synopsis is long, although just a few sentences would not be adequate. Having hiked all three main long trails of the United States, we defiantly have opinions regarding them. First off, comparing the trails against each other is not fair. Putting the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and Continental Divide Trail (CDT) against the AT, is like comparing tangerines to a slab of beef. Both are food, but that is where the similarities end. The Appalachian Trail is that different. The AT is one hell of a trail. It brought new meaning of what a tough trail is. Consistently we have heard that the AT is hard. OK, it is not going to be easy. The Ravens never back down from something that proves a little difficult. However, the word hard and difficult do not even begin to adequately describe the AT. More accurately, I would add the words grueling, exhausting, and maddening. My favorite AT statistic is that Mt. Everest has nearly 60,000’ of elevation change, while the AT has 515,000’. This is equal to consecutively climbing Mt. Everest eight and a half times. Nonetheless, there are two personalities of the AT.
The first character of the Appalachian Trail is that of a wise old soul who has much to offer anyone willing to take time to observe and listen. The deep woodland forests with thick moss growing over everything in its path, ferns and mushrooms popping up everywhere were magical and beautiful. I have never breathed richer oxygen than I have in those forests. Inner peace abounded our hearts, as we walked through the woods. Maine was our favorite state because of its lush woodlands and all the stunningly beautiful lakes we passed by. We began in early April, before spring arrived in Georgia. Being from the west coast of the United States, deciduous forests do not exist. Thus, our early days of the trail were pleasingly memorable as we walked amongst the massive forests of barren trees. It was a sea of brown sticks and various shades of brown and gray dead leaves on the ground as far as the eye could see. Yes, it was dreary looking, but at the same time, it was peaceful. The forest was still asleep from the long winter. As we headed north, the woods began to wake up. Dogwood trees were the first to bud with their white flowers and green leaves breaking up the drab brown background. Soon other trees began to bear green leaf buds too. Lots of unique wild flowers began blooming, most of which we had never seen before. Our favorites were the trilliums. Also the Rhododendrons bursting with flowers, creating pink tunnels to walk through, were glorious. Georgia holds a special place in our hearts. Other favorite locations along the Appalachian Trail include Max Patch, Tinkers Cliff, Greyson Highland, Shenandoah’s, Upper Goose Pond, historical sites, Mahoosuc Notch, Mt Washington, and Katadin. Off trail detours to Gettysburg, Washington DC. and New York City, were also treasured. The first magical sighting of fire flies was truly a thrill beyond words. The wild ponies, little orange salamanders, the orchestra of song birds that woke us in the mornings, wild blueberries, and of course all the friends we made along the way will never be forgotten. There is much to appreciate on the Appalachian Trail.
Yes the Appalachian Trail is peaceful and beautiful, however it’s alter ego is that of an old gnarly hag who revels with delight in the torture to all those that walk upon it. I swore I heard it’s vile, cackling laugh at me every time I had an accident. The mind cannot wander off and think about things, to do so, would bring bodily damage. There are too many rocks and tree roots on the trail to trip over. Relaxing our minds could not happen as it could on the PCT or CDT. Constant focus on the ground before my feet was required. Every foot placement had to be perfectly executed, otherwise I would be laying face down in the dirt. Let the mind wonder the slightest bit and there would be a sprain ankle or a bloody knee. Cursing at the trail was common for me. The daily strenuous ups and downs were brutal on the body. The more North we traveled, the more difficult it became. It no longer was hiking, but non technical rock climbing, all day long. The ups were grueling the downs were knee-destroyers.
The east coast weather is tough. Humidity, heat, snow and many days of rain await thru-hikers. Sixty-four wet, soggy days of hiking is what we encountered. Slippery rocks on steep descents was my greatest fear. Snow is much more preferred because the white flakes can easily be shaken off. All day rain simply soaks through everything. The shelters offer a reprieve from the inclement weather, but the night time “Snoresymphony” of other hikers makes sleep impossible. “Head bangers”, which are large low lying tree branches that stretch across the trail at eye level are numerous. Diligently, a hiker keeps their head down for safe foot placement meanwhile, at eye level are these limbs, waiting to knock you out. Hikers with wide brimmed hats that limit peripheral vision are especially prone to these attacks. Papa Raven was one of those. Hiking the CDT in 2017, we encountered a good bit of mud in areas of snow melt, however it does not come close to the quantity and quality of mud of the east coast. AT wins the mud award!
The greatest adversary of the trail was the tiniest of creatures….the tick. It is not so much the little tick we were afraid of, it was the even smaller Lyme bacteria from a tick bite that was so feared. Rattlesnake and copperhead sightings were common, especially in the Shenandoah’s. We never saw an older copper head, just the little babies. The most aggressive bears we have encountered were on the AT. We defended our camp one evening for many hours against a black bear. Our food was hung high in a tree and he was determined to get it. We threw rocks and yelled it and in return, it charged us. The bear won, however, it did not get our food, near midnight we packed up and moved on. Another bear encounter was way up in New Hampshire. We did not have any food, but a black bear smelled something. It put an eight inch diameter hole in our tent. We scared it away by throwing rocks and yelling at it. This is one of my clearest memories due to all the sensory sensations involved. I felt high on adrenaline and fear from the bear attack. I heard every sound outside the tent thinking the bear had returned. I felt the bear saliva as I mended the tent with dental floss in the dark by the light of a headlamp.
“The Green Tunnel” is the nickname of the Appalachian Trail because so much of it is covered in trees. I have never experienced boredom before while thru-hiking until the AT. After weeks and weeks and months of the same tree covered canopy, the monotony of the path gets to you. Oh, how I wanted to rip open the ceiling of trees above my head to see the light. As we walked along from time to time, a bald spot or rocky outcropping would be before us, and I would think how absolutely glorious it was! However, in no time, we went back in the trees.
Each long trail has their own difficult sections and character unique to themselves, which make hiking hard and often times downright miserable. The AT did a brilliant job of being ruthless to all those that walked its length. All the fanciest and lightest equipment will not get you to the end. It is only stubbornness, persistence, and determination. Our Katadin summit was an amazing day. Yes, it completed our dream of triple crowning, but that is not the full reason for our glory. The Appalachian Trail tried its hardest to beat us down into quitting, but we did not. We endured all the trail threw at us. The scrambling and climbing up and over rocks to the top of Mt. Katadin was a metaphor of the entire trail. There is no more perfect ending of the AT. To be honest, I did not love the Appalachian Trail like I did the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide. As I walked along the AT’s path, I yearned for the grand views, wide open county, gracious blue skies, and smooth trails of our previous hikes. Despite all that, thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail was an incredible experience, which makes it priceless. When things get chaotic and stressful here at home, which is all too often, I stop for a moment and imagine myself walking in one of those Appalachian woods. Remembering how taking a deep breath of the rich oxygen felt, a wave of calmness runs through me. I hope one day I can once again walk amongst those woods.
We made it home. Although before our return to California, we went and visited our dear friend, Calvin Batchelder, “Batch”, as he is known in the hiking community, and his wife Mary, known as “MMMMB”. Mary is 95 years old. Earlier I stated Batch was 99 years old, which is wrong. He is 97. His hearing is not so good, but everything else is just fine. He is sharp and witty. Mary has dementia, and Batch takes care of her. Before we reached his house in Laconia, New Hampshire, I had figured out all the questions I wanted to ask him about his time in WWII. However, after sitting with him, in his living room, I quickly realized he had no desire to to talk about the war at all. Instead it was hiking that interested him most. So that is what we mainly talked about.
Both Mary and MMMMB
began their love affair with hiking when they were in their low
seventies when they decided to thru-hike the AT. After completing the
trail, in 1992, they went on to hike the long trails of England and
Scotland, and spent time on New Zealand’s famous Te Araroa. Both
hiked bits and pieces of the Pacific Crest Trail until Batch decided
to thru-hike the entire PCT in the mid nineties. For several
consecutive years he would begin in Campo, California and quit
somewhere along the way. It was the heat of Southern California that
would always do him in. During his 1996 attempt, we met Batch while
we were thru-hiking the PCT. He was 74. We hiked all of Southern
California with him only to lose him after Kennedy Meadows. The call
for more ice cream lured him away from the trail. The Ravens
continued on, hoping Batch would catch up. He never did. He
continued north and he made it all the way to Northern California
when he got off the trail at A Tree.
Being true to his generation, he is stubborn. The following year Batch returned to Campo for another attempt. We did not know he was back on the trail again. We only discovered it when we were day hiking on the PCT near our home. We were talking to a thru-hiker, who mentioned an older gentleman from New England was also thru-hiking the trail this year. He could not remember his name. Hoping to ring a bell in the hikers mind, we mentioned the name Batch. He said that was him. Inquiring farther, we asked if he knew where Batch was. After coming home, we figured out roughly where he might be and estimated his location for the following weekend. Having hiked hundreds of miles with him we had a good idea on how fast he hiked. The following weekend we would go Batch hunting. That next Saturday we prepared a monstrous sandwich with all his favorite fixins. We also had home made chocolate chip cookies, potato chips, and plenty of ice cold soda packed in our day sacks. We wished we could have brought him ice cream but that obviously would not work out in the heat of the desert. Heading to Hwy 10, out in the desert near Palm Springs, we parked the car. Not knowing for sure if our calculations were accurate as to where Batch would be, we began the long hot hike up Fuller Ridge. Roughly two hours up the trail, our Batch hunting proved to be a success. Up a few switch backs above us, we saw a man walking down toward us. Knowing his size, shape and hiking style. We knew instantly it was Batch. Excitedly we greeted him with a cold soda. There he was, all in tears with the joy of seeing us! All three of us were in awe that we actually succeeded at finding each other. For the remainder of the day, we hiked with him until we needed to return to our car before it got dark. We said our good byes and went our separate ways. For the next few weeks, up to Kennedy Meadows, this was our weekends, Batch hunting. Kennedy Meadows is at the very southern end of the Sierras. It is a location where hikers take several days off before heading into the snowbound mountains of the High Sierras. Mama Raven and a girl friend made arrangements to pick Batch up and bring him home for a few days of rest and relaxation. Back at Kennedy Meadows, he was telling his fellow hikers that two young ladies were picking him up and bringing him home with them. They did not really believe him, but he shaved and got cleaned up the best he could on the trail for his big day. Noon time came and a white Camero pulled up to the Kennedy Meadows Hikers Campground, driven by Mama Raven and Gina, who picked up Batch. Driving away, in the rear view mirror, Mama Raven could see a small group of hikers just watching in disbelief. . . just another successful day of Batch Hunting. That was the last of our new favorite hobby of Batch hunting because he was getting too far north for us to meet him. Oh yes, Batch did complete the PCT that year!
Despite all the hiking stories being told in his tiny living room, there were a few insights to his war days. There was an old faded photograph of him in his airplane during the war. The plane had many white marks underneath the cockpit indicating how many missions he had flown. I asked how many tick marks there were, he answered thirty seven. I also learned Mary was from Scotland and they had met during the war. He had a leave of absence and wanted to go where it was cold because he wanted to ice skate. Most service men wanted to go to Hawaii, but not Batch. He has never liked the heat, so Scotland is where he went. He met Mary at the ice skating rink where she was being courted by another American service man. She was a nurse at a local hospital for badly injured soldiers who had to be removed from the battle area. Somehow Batch got Mary to skate with him and won over her heart. After returning to his duties, he asked Mary for her hand in marriage. She said yes, so back to Scotland to get married he went. His best man was the other gentleman, who had been courting Mary at the ice skating rink. In fact, the two men became good friends and stayed in close contact long after the war was over. Both just happened to be from New Hampshire. Soon after the marriage, Batch had to return to duty. This is when he found out that his entire unit had been killed while he was away. Mary literally saved his life. At the end of the conversation, Batch mentioned that he still has Mary’s ice skates. What a great story! I am so glad Whisper and Joon were there to hear it. Their education is different than most kids but it is so powerful and enriching.
We woke up in the AT Hostel on a beautiful crisp fall morning. Another day without a cloud in the sky. There will be some happy hikers heading up Mt Katahdin today. Since our hiking trip is over, we all slept in late. However, our hungry stomachs let us know it was time to wake up and head over to the cafe for breakfast. Sketch and Great Scott where there, along with Green Slouch and Hermione. Hermione is from Cambridge, England and Green Slouch is American. They met on their first day of hiking the AT way back in Georgia. They have been together ever since. Today is their last day together. I realized I never got a picture of the two together so just as they were departing, I quickly snapped one. Inside the cafe, the ceiling tiles are filled with signatures of past AT hikers. Each panel is assigned a year. Most hiking years take two ceiling tiles. They also have plenty of blank ones left for future years of hikers. The panels for 2019 were taken down and set aside with a basket of colored Sharpies to be used for signatures. During breakfast, I went over and signed for the Ravens. It is hard to believe it is all over with. It is a bitter sweet ending. The trail was so difficult, at times I longed for it to end. Other times, I reveled in the beauty of the woodland forests. No matter what, it was an amazing experience for all of us. Now it is time to go home. One sad note, we will have to leave Papa Ravens $170 hiking poles behind. They would not collapse down. Extended, they are to long to be allowed on the airplanes. The hostel said they will give them to a hiker that needs them.
Day 161 (9/18/19)
Miles – 9.9
Total miles – 2170.8
The morning was very cold when we woke. When we dropped our packs off at the ranger station, the thermometer read 32° inside the porch. From there we set off up Katahdin. It was 6:30 in the morning. Yes it was cold, but it was a perfectly clear. Only visible clouds were far-off in the distance. This is something we have been hoping and praying for this day. It has come true! There is only five and a half miles to the top. The trail started off at a good grade and after a few miles we hit the ridge. That was when it got interesting. We had to climb up very steep rocks with rebar steps and handles. It was strenuous and challenging. We climbed up and over rocks for the next mile until reaching the tablelands, a large flat area below the peak. The kids hiked on ahead of us to the summit. Mama and Papa Raven arrived at the summit at 10:35. The Raven family has officially completed Triple Crown: PCT in 2015, CDT in 2017, and now the AT in 2019. Sketch, another thru-hiker finishing his triple crown, had been up there for several hours. What else was Sketch doing up there so long . . . sketching and painting. Sketch is an amazing artist from Japan. We have known him since our PCT hike in 2015. It was a privilege to complete our Triple Crown with him on the same day! All and all there were about 15 people in the summit. Some were day hikers but Great Scott, Ghost, Crazy Glue, Cold Foot, Camel, and another women we cannot remember her name were completing their AT journey. After eating and taking a bunch of pictures, we started down. The best moment for us was when a raven decided to fly into the background of our photographs. We came up The Hunt trail and we decided to go down The Abol trail. We found the the Abol trail was steeper than the Hunt trail but had very few large rocks to climb down. Most of it was smaller loose rock that was not difficult to climb down. Several hours later we arrived at Abol Campground. From there we started the two mile road walk. Within five minutes down the road, a Baxter State Park truck stopped and gave us a ride. We were back to our packs by 3:00. By 4:00 we were headed to Millinocket and our room for the night. There are no words to describe what a great day it was for us. The strenuous summitting of Katahdin at the end of the Appalachian Trail is the most perfect way to end this equally strenuous trail. After renting a car, we will head to Boston for a plane flight home on Sunday. On the way down we will take a detour to Alton Bay, New Hampshire to visit our dear friend Batch, a fellow thru hiker, Worlds War II bombardier veteran, D-Day survivor. We hiked with him in 1996, on our first PCT hike. We cannot wait to see him and his wife Mary. After we are home a bit we will write a wrap up and tell how The Ravens are coping being home. As we always say, the most difficult part of any thru hike is going home. It can be a very difficult process for many. However, there are those that seem to fit right back into main stream society with no problems. Papa Raven is one of those, and Mama Raven is one that struggles. Nonetheless in a few weeks we will write one more blog to officially wrap up our Appalachian Trail adventure.
Katahdin Stream Campground
Day 160 (9/17/19)
Total miles – 2160.9
Today was a short day. We just needed to get to our reserved camp site at the base of Katahdin. We ate our very small breakfast, packed up, and headed out. With only 3.5 miles to food we made quickly. Thankfully, they were still serving the breakfast buffet so we all had pancakes, fruit, sausage, eggs, muffins, yogurt and juice. Mama Raven alone had six pancakes, one egg and sausage bagel sandwich, a muffin and at least six bowls of fruit salad. Great Scott, who we have been bumping into ever since Virginia, was there before we were and he was still going back for thirds, fourth, and fifth servings of everything. At the end of a thru hike, it is amazing how much food we can consume. We then stopped in at the store to resupply for today and tomorrow’s hiking. From the store we hiked on to Katahdin Stream Campground and our lean-to. Home for the night. We registered with the ranger for our assent of Katahdin tomorrow. We also picked up two day sacks the forest service provided for hikers who do not want to carry their heavy packs to the top. Most thru hikers slack pack to the top of Katahdin. However, there are those who want their backpack in the final AT photograph. For the Ravens, we are eager to not carry our packs up such a strenuous climb. We have been trying to figure out when we should leave tomorrow morning. We have a shuttle ride at 4:30 in the afternoon, thus we need to be up and down by then. The consensus of those who have done Katahdin say we should go up the AT (the Hunt Trail) and come down the Abol Trail. This would mean we will cover 11 miles tomorrow. We probably will leave six or six thirty in the morning. At the campground we bumped into Slim. We were so happy to see her again. She simply dropped off the trail and we had no idea what happened to her. We have not seen her since mid Pennsylvania. After talking to her, we found out she badly damaged a knee, which required getting off the trail for a while. She recently was well enough to hike again. She began again with Maine, and once she summits Katahdin, she will southbound to where she got off. Meanwhile, tomorrow she will be doing Katahdin along with Sketch, Great Scott and The Ravens. We are excited to be with Sketch because he too is a triple crowner like we are. In fact he hiked the PCT and CDT the same years we did. Later in the afternoon, we greeted the thru-hikers that were returning from summitting Katahdin today. Unfortunately, we missed Slerner, Shortcake, Letters, Broadway, and Jeopardy. We are sorry we could not congratulate them on their amazing journey and completion of the AT first hand. Instead this message will have to work . . . We so enjoyed your friendship and laughs along the way. You helped make tough moments not so hard. THANK YOU! Today’s summitters had a tough day by having to climb into a bitter, cold, cloud for their ending day. Knowing the character of these guys, they were not disappointed by the poor weather conditions they had. They took all in stride and embraced what ever came their way. That’s what a thru hiker does!
Hurd Brook Shelter
Day 159 (9/16/19)
Miles – 22.2
Total miles – 2149.5
To our surprise, last night started out noticeably warmer than previous evenings. Although, at some point during the night, the wind came up and temperatures cooled off rapidly. Come morning, it was cold again. As we left camp, we came to the end of Nahmakanta Lake where the wind was blowing hard and bitterly cold. It was nice to get out of its direct path. Of course, this being the AT, we had to climb to the top of Nahmakanta Mountain. We were rewarded with a few views of Mt. Katahdin that was covered in clouds. For a short time, we had a signal and we checked for a weather report. Katahdin should be clear on the 18th, the day we summit, but cold, with highs in the 30’s. Sounds like a good day to summit. After the one climb, the trail settled down and became somewhat level with the usual roots and rocks. Several more lakes we passed by, two of them were miles long. At one point we saw our first loon. We have heard numerous of them along the way, but never saw any until today. Loons are larger than we thought, both in body and in it’s head. Food has been very tight for since it is taking us longer than expected to get through the Hundred Miles Wilderness. Our calorie intake has been restricted because we do not have enough food! First break we ate the remainder of the food Papa Raven carried. Second break we consumed the rest of the food Bling is carrying. This was five M&M’s, two slices of dried tangerines, six macadamia nuts and a small handful of trail mix for each Raven member. Third break was an early dinner in which we ate the last dinner Mama Raven was carrying. The only reason we had this meal was because of the last two nights we have reserved a third of that dinner for tonight. The early dinner was needed for calories to continue hiking. In our tents we ate our Raspberry Crumb dessert. Tomorrow we will finish the last of the breakfast Whisper is carrying, which is half of a Belvita package for each person. Our food rationing worked out. It was not enough food for our comfort, but we did not starve. We will reach Abol Camping with no food. We will be very hungry in the morning. It is a good thing it is only 3.5 miles from here.
South end of Nahmakanta Lake
Day 158 (9/15/19)
Total miles – 2127.3
We rose to a mix of clouds and clear skies. As we looked around our camp, in the light of day, we could see what we could not at night. We were at the very top of the mountain that dropped away on all sides. We were lucky that we found a place to camp up here. Our hope was to cover as many miles as possible today. In the last few weeks, it has become very apparent how short the days are getting. We barely have 12 hours of hiking. Head lamps come out shortly before 7:00. We did hike well today covering 23.5 miles with 3 breaks in 12 hours. That means we were holding more than two mph pace all day. Not bad.
There is very little to say about what we passed today. The terrain is pretty flat. We hiked by five or six lakes. And of course there were trees. . . always trees. Also there is always thick lush moss covering everything in it’s path. Very few flowers can be found this late in the season. However mushrooms of every shape, size and color are plentiful. Mama Raven is constantly being scolded by everyone that she stops too often to take pictures of them. On the shore of one lake, we were able to see Mt. Katahdin, it’s top half shrouded in clouds. We hope the weather will clear in the next few days. It was the usual overcast all day. Daytime temperatures are in the low 50’s making us always cold these days. We have to keep telling ourselves it was much colder at the end of our CDT hike with daytime highs in the upper thirties and low forties. We summit Katahdin in three days. All Ravens are filled with excitement for the big event!
Little Boardman Mountain
Day 157 (9/14/19) R
Miles – 20.4
Total miles – 2103.8
The day dawned windy, cloudy, and cold. Oh joy. Here we are at the bottom of our next mountain range and the weather is ominous, just as the weather reports predicted. However, we always hope they will be wrong when it comes to rain. Thankfully the first six miles was a well graded climb that we hiked in 3 hours. Just before a shelter, it began to rain. Quickly we ducked under big trees to protect us while we put on our pack covers and rain coats. This rain did not last long. After we left the shelter the real fun began. We climbed up into a cloud, which usually is a wet experience. Of course the trail climbed to a ridge and followed it from mountain top to mountain top. And when your on a mountain ridge in a storm, what else is always there? Wind and a lot of it! We crossed Hagas Mountain, West Peak, Hay Mountain, and White Cap Mountain. Most of the time the fog collects on leaves and the wind blows water drops on us. A heavy drizzle fell as we crossed Hay Mountain. We were warned by Sobo’s about the intense wind on White Cap Mountain. In the saddle before climbing to the peak, we put on our rain pants, gloves, and made sure everything was attached firmly to the out side of our packs. White Cap Mountain was the only one that had no trees on its summit. That meant we would be hit with the full force of the wind and it did not let us down. As we walked from the trees, we were hit on our right side by a constant wind and driving rain. The rain was like small rocks being thrown into the side of us. Strong wind made us stagger off the trail and we had to fight to get back and stay on the trail. This wind was as strong or stronger than the wind on Mt Washington, which had gusts up to 65 mph. We worked our way across the summit and headed for the trees. As we neared the trees, the wind let up because the mountain was blocking it. We quickly dropped into the protection of the trees. We did not stop until we had come to the next shelter. They were six people huddle inside and we made ten. Unlike the others, we did not want to stay. We just desired to get out of the cold wind and rain to eat some food, Mama Raven also took the time to put on her dry socks. Then we hiked off. As we headed down the mountain, a number of things happened, it warmed up a bit, the wind was blocked by very large trees,and the farther from the mountain we got the more the clouds broke up. Soon we reached the bottoms of the clouds. In the end we hiked until after dark, stopping after finding a place to set up the tents. The wind is still blowing, but it has not rained in hours. We hope that holds through the night.
Katahdin Iron Works Road
Day 156 (9/13/19)
Total miles – 2083.4
It was very cold last night and no one wanted to get moving. The only good thing about the morning was sun hitting the tents as we started to pack. Sunshine has been a very rare occurrence the past few weeks. Despite this, we got out of camp a half hour late. Today we needed to cross a small range of mountains, five peaks in all. The biggest climb was the first and it took awhile to get up. We took a break at the partially dismantled look out tower at the top of Barren Mountain. The rest of the day was spent hiking from peak to peak: Barren Mountain, Fourth Mountain, Third Mountain, Columbus Mountain, and finally Chairman Mountain. Doing the other peaks was not difficult but it was slow. The usual tree roots, and mud puddles forced reduced speeds. Careful precautions had to be made down the many steep rocky descents. Yesterday Bling took a fall and hit his knee on a rock. This morning it was stiff and swollen. Going up Barren Mountain today, he fell again and hurt the same spot. He was in a lot of pain but he kept going. Just before Fourth Mountain, we took a break to eat, drink and dry our tents. Bling slipped on a rock and a stick left two deep scratches from the top of his neck to his collar bone. On Fourth Mountain Mama Raven took a spill when a tree branch deeply cut the back of her leg. Later coming down a steep rock pile from Chairman Mountain she fell again and bent her hiking pole into the letter L. Papa Raven straightened it as best as possible however it has a permanent bend but it is usable. Today’s hiking was very hard. We are very concerned about making it to Abol Camping in three days. For a ways now, people have been telling us how easy this part of Maine is. To the contrary, we are finding it to be anything but easy! We expected to move faster than we are. Instead, we have lost a lot of ground yesterday and today and we are not sure if we will make up the time these next three days. Tomorrow we have another big mountain to get over. After that, we should have 50 miles of easier hiking. We should be able to make good time, but we cannot loose any more miles. To add to tomorrow’s difficulties, it is suppose to rain in the afternoon and evening. That always slows us down. We can roll into a sixth day for this section if we had another dinner and breakfast. We have one extra set of lunch bars, that can be a light breakfast, and we are setting aside a bit from tonight’s and tomorrow night’s dinner to make an extra dinner. We adapt.
Day 155 (9/12/19)
Miles – 17.0
Total miles – 2067.1
We were up by 6:00 and down stairs at the breakfast tables by 6:30. We wanted one of the early breakfasts so we would be ready to go as soon as possible. The breakfasts at Shaw’s Hostel are delicious with perfectly cooked scrambled eggs. Most places seem to overcook them resulting in dried out eggs. Thick slabs of bacon too were cooked to perfection along with homefries, which were some of the best we have had on the entire AT. Blueberry pancakes were served next. Oh, what a meal to remember!!! As we were getting ready Papa Raven noticed that an arm of Mama Raven’s glasses had broken off. This needed to be fixed before we left. He asked Poet, the owner of Shaw’s and head breakfast chef if he had any epoxy, he said he would see what he could do after breakfast. A short time later we were in his gear shop and gluing the glasses arm back on. Shaw’s is known for slack packing hikers all around this area. People slack pack for the day after having made arrangements to be picked up and brought back to Shaw’s for another nights stay and another breakfast. Then they do it again the following day with the next section of trail. For ourselves, we are simply packing all our supplies as usual and heading forward. We will have to only dream about their famous breakfast. This morning there was a line of hikers waiting for a shuttle to all different locations along the AT. When it came time to start driving hikers to the trail heads, Poet took us first. Our drop off point was the shortest distance away. We started hiking around 8:30. A little late but not too bad. We had 3.3 miles to Hwy 15 and in the middle of that was a hill with good cell phone reception. We called Batch in New Hampshire. Batch is a thru-hiker and good friend Mama and Papa Raven met on their PCT thru-hike, back in 1996. At that time he was 74 and he is now 97. We would like to visit him when we drive South to Boston to fly home. Papa Raven talked with him and we will call him when we finish our hike. Most of today’s trail passed along low ridges and bogs. We headed into the 100 mile wilderness. This is a stretch with no towns and very few roads. We also went by six or seven lakes. We crossed above Little Wilson Falls, a truly beautiful spot. Above the falls was a large mirrored pond that gently cascaded down shallow rock ledges before it plummeted down a tight ravine hundreds of feet down. Our photographs did not do it justice. We never saw the falls because the angle of the trail was not right, but as we looked back we saw the end point of the falling water and it was magnificent sight! It is one of those spots that has to be seen first hand to be appreciated. We had one river crossing where we had to take off our shoes. Luckily, it was one of the few times the sun came out. For the most part, it has been cold with very little sunshine to warm us. We are camped a short ways before our climb up Barren Mountain. That will be the first job we tackle tomorrow morning.
Day 154 (9/11/19) R
Miles – 0.0
Total miles – 2050.1
We had much to do this morning. We were still going to attempt hiking today. After a big breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash browns, and blueberry pancakes, we worked on getting our boxes ready to ship home. We walked over to the store to get a few last minute items. Then we stopped by the PO to mail our boxes. Next we went to the ATC office. There we obtained all the information we needed to figure out exactly the day we could summit Mt Katahdin, which will be the 18th. We made camping reservations for the night of the 17th. Seven days is all we have left. Next was a call to the AT Lodge to arrange a place to stay after we summit on the 18th. Leaving later today will not do us any good. Instead it would only create stress. With everything lined up, we will leave tomorrow. The remainder of the afternoon, we took it easy. It rained several times during the day, but it is supposed to be clear until Saturday. We are ready to finish this little trip and only have a bit more to go. Despite Maine’s difficult beginning for us, we have been enjoying the state. We had no idea it is a land of many lakes. We hope one day to come back to do further hiking. Another thing we did not know about Maine is that it is the land of Whoopie Pies! Never having one before, we have had many opportunities to try them. The calorie count is astonishing on some. Nearly a thousand calories per pie is packed into one giant cookie sandwich. No wonder thru hikers consume them more than anybody else. There seems to be infinite varieties. Mama Raven’s and Whisper’s favorite has been pumpkin with chocolate chips. Papa Raven’s and Bling’s has been chocolate with raspberry cream. Returning to the general store for more Whoopie Pies to purchase for tomorrow’s hike, sadly we discovered them sold out. We have no doubt we will find more along the way before we come home!
After twenty four hours in the hospital, Randy returned to Shaw’s Hostel with all fingers intact. He has to return tomorrow to the facility to make sure it is still mending the way it is suppose to. No hiking for Randy for at least one week. Nobody loves the Whoopie Pies more than Randy, so once the store restocks, he will have his fill of them here in town.
Day 153 (9/10/19) R
Miles – 18.2
Total miles – 2050.1
Early morning sunshine on our tents woke us. A rare event! The day dawned clear and cold. We really needed to make it to town today, because we only have food for lunch and we will be very hungry if we have to spend one more night on the trail. We dropped off of the mountain and stopped at a small stream just before the shelter. Mama Raven and Whisper were out of water thus we stopped and filtered. As we were filtering, we heard the voice of Randy coming from the direction of the shelter. Before we knew it he was at the stream to say hello to us since he recognized our voices talking. We assumed we would not see him again but here he was! He has been having problem with a small cut on the inside of his pinky finger that has become horribly infected. He had it wrapped up with Neosporin and a large bandage. The entire finger was terribly swollen. He said it was going to be ok and that this was how his body was ridden itself of the infection. We were not too confident with this but nothing else could be done until he gets to town this evening. We said are good byes as we finished filtering water and he headed up the trail. Over the next few hours, the trail went down an easy slope. As the trail paralleled a river for miles we made good time. It as very nice to hike along a river for a change. Water flowed passed cliff walls as it tumbled down boulders creating mini water falls. We took one long break along it’s shore. We relaxed by the water far longer than we should of. Somberly we know our trip is coming to an end. Very rarely do we just sit, talk, and laugh along a beautiful river. Usually we are trying to get as many miles in as possible. We were simply enjoying the moment since our end is near. The sky started to cloud over as we hiked down. There is a chance of rain tonight and tomorrow. We took the first path into Monson. It was a short two mile road walk into the small town. There were only three places to stay, a hostel, a church, and some rooms over a pub. Everywhere we called was filled. Shaw’s hostel was the only possible location with any space available for us. It looked like we would have to tent in the yard. Just as we began to look for a space, Hippie Hiker came out of the office to say they just got a cancellation from a hiker. It seems Randy arrived at Shaw’s a while ago. He showed the owner his finger who immediately took him to an urgent care. From there they sent him to the hospital to stay over night. It seems the infection was spreading up his arm and the entire pinky finger had become a raging mass of puss. All the hikers at Shaw’s are sending there prayers to Randy that the infection can be brought under control. Meanwhile, since he had to stay the night in the hospital, that freed up a room for us. Tomorrow we need to figure out many details about the ending of our trip and our ascent of Mount Katahdin. Everything needs a reservations, including our nights out on the trail. There is great desire to hike to the end terminus with our friends we have made along the way: Slerner, Shortcake, Letters, Broadway, Jeapordy, Tomatilla, Mozzie, Honey Buns, Wiggs, Tigha Balm, Sketch, Hermione and The Slouch. They are summitting on September, 17. However that would require us to leave early in the morning. Tonight, we have to go through our resupply boxes, mail home our bump box, make camping reservations for Katahdin and the AT lodge, air line tickets need to be purchased, go to the store for needed food, do laundry, shower , write blogs. . . the list goes on. As much as we would like to summit with them, it is not realistic. Summitting on September, 18 will have to be our date.
Just beyond Bald Mountain
Day 152 (9/9/19)
Miles – 21.0
Total miles – 2031.9
It was a cold night and we could hear loons hauntingly and lonely calls on and off all night long. Our camp spot was a beautiful location up above the lake. When morning time arrived, we did not want to get moving but we needed to get to the Kennebec River by 9:00 and we had four miles to cover. We got onto the trail right on time, 7:00. It was all down hill and we made very good time, getting there at 8:35. The only other hiker at the ferry was Double Shot. We settled down next to the river and waited. A few minutes after 9:00 a man, on the other side of the river, started to canoe across the water. We meet him on the shore. Mama Raven and Bling crossed first and then Whisper and Papa Raven. It did not take long. The man told us that the water was about 5′ deep. That would have been difficult to cross on foot. Once we were across, we followed the trail across an easy ridge and up along a steam. For miles the hiking was easy. It was such a nice change of pace compared to the last few weeks or so. All of us have bruises, cuts, and scrapes all over our bodies that we have collecting from the difficult terrain we had been covering. Our first climb came later in the day when we went up Pleasant Pond Mountain and then along a short ridge. It was not difficult but we would love to be finished with such climbs. As the day wore on, we dropped off the ridge and crossed between several lakes. Being so hungry these days, we stopped three times to eat. However we do not have much to eat. We are finding ourselves running out of energy because of this. The AT as been slowly wearing us down. We’re glad that we only have eight more hiking days. We are also sad we have only eight more hiking days. Fall is definitely here. We are seeing the early change of tree leaf colors. The ferns and other ground shrubs are starting to die off. The nights have become very cold. By seven o’clock in the evening, it is nearly dark. It feels like winter is right around the corner, even though we are not in full fall yet. At the end of the day, we climbed Bald Mountain. Since it was dark, we did not want to go down the steep other side thus we found two spots that our tents would fit. We hope to get into Monson tomorrow, but we do not know if we will make it or not. We are out of all food after tomorrow, so if we don’t make it, we will be very hunger!
Mama Raven would like to introduce Elephant, a tiny little critter she keeps safely zipped up in her pack. On the PCT in 2015, a young girl, six or seven years old, was day hiking with her father when we bumped into them. I cannot even remember what state we were in. Nonetheless, she had a number of different mini animals in her pocket and she wanted to give me one. I chose the elephant. I told her I will get it to Canada for her. I did, twice. Elephant also completed the CDT and now the AT. However, he is no longer alone, he now has Moose, which I found in Rangeley, Maine.
Pierce Pond Lean-to
Day 151 (9/8/19)
Today miles – 2010.9
Once again we had a good night’s rest. Hobo arrived at 7:30 to pick us up and drop us off at East Flagstaff Road, but first we stopped by the store for breakfast. We picked up breakfast sandwiches and drinks and ate them as Hobo drove. The Ravens are so grateful for all of the special trail magic Hobo and Anita provided us. It was a privilege to meet them. They are the kind of people that you are glad to find out and about in the world. A short time later we said our goodbyes and started off. The hiking was very easy and we made good time all day. Of course the trail was shrouded in trees and thick under brush so we could not see very far. There were a number of big lakes we passed by today but we could not see them unless there trail got close to their shore. It was in the high 40’s when we started hiking and it never really warmed up. Mid morning, we stopped by one of the lakes for a snack. The first thing we ate were the tangerines Hobo gave us. They were sweet and delicious. One of our greatest food cravings we have is fresh fruit so the little oranges were a true treat! Clouds covered most of the sky all day long. Finally at sunset, they disappeared. We really wanted to hike a twenty mile day today, but we realized that we had a problem at mile 19 with the Kennebec River. The Kennebec River is the most dangerous river crossing on the AT. First of all it is almost 400′ wide with swift running water. There is a dam up river, which will release large amounts of water without warning. This will cause the river level to rise very quickly. Over the years, a number of people have drowned at this crossing. There are a few AT purest that feel they are cheating the trail by not crossing the river on foot. A free ferry service is provided that carries hikers across. The word ferry is misleading. It is actually a canoe and only one to two hikers can be brought across at a time. It can be a slow process if twenty or so hikers want to cross at the same time. Our problem is that the ferry only runs from 9am – 2 pm. We cold not get to the Kennebec River until 7:00, thus we will be waiting until 9:00 tomorrow to catch the ferry. Therefore we decided to stop early at Pierce Pond and hike the four miles down to the Kennebec River in the morning. Either way we will be at the ferry at 9:00 in the morning.
Day 150 (9/7/29) R
Total miles – 1994.6
We were up and ready to head to the trail by 7:00. With 17 miles to hike, we needed an early start. Hobo drove us to the trail head and started hiking by 7:30. It was cloudy and cold when we began the up into the Bigelows. We made very good time as we climbed our first peak. As we crossed over to the climb up Mount Avery, the clouds lowered and it grew cold. Fog rolled around us and we got a heavy drizzle. For the next few hours, we worked our way up to Mount Avery and West Bigelow. There was almost no visibility on top of the mountains. Bitter cold wind blew across the peak tops and ridges. The hike down to Hone Pond Lean-tos was slow because the rocks were steep and wet. Here in Maine, shelters are called Lean-tos. Papa Raven texted Hobo with an estimated time we would need to be picked up. It was mainly down, so we should be able to make it in the two and a half hours we told him. As we dropped in elevation, the clouds broke and a bit of sun came through. We made it to the road right on time. Hobo, Anita and Bailey were there waiting for us with donuts and hot chocolate. Hobo drove us back to Stratton. He did stop by the store so we could pick up dinner and a few things we needed for the rest of this section. Tomorrow we are off to the lower elevations of Maine.
Day 149 (9/6/19)
Miles – 12.8
Total miles – 1977.7
It was a cold night. Since we camped in the open we had condensation. Today’s trail lead us into a second set of mountains that we needed to cross in this section. We had a good climb up from our camp. Since the trail was still wet and muddy from the rain the other day, everyone’s feet got wet at one point or another. Hiking in wet shoes is never pleasant. We did have one surprise as we came down to Hwy 27. Earlier in the day we were talking about not seeing any trail magic for awhile. However, that changed at Hwy 27. Hobo and his wife Anita were there handing out drinks and snacks. Their dog Bailey was there to help. Hobo thru hiked the AT in 2013. As we sat and talked with them we found out that they were slack packing hikers through the Bigelows, our next set of mountains we hike through. After looking at maps we found that the Bigelows can be done in 17 miles. A reasonable slack pack. Another factor in deciding if we should slack pack tomorrow was the weather. Hurricane Dorian will be causing rain in Maine as it passes through Nova Scotia. Most forecasts have it raining on and off throughout the day. Returning to a warm dry room is more appealing than getting into the tent after it has rained during the day. It sounded like a good plan! Thus we called down to the town of Stratton and got a room. Hobo will pick us up in the morning and take us to East Flagstaff Road and we will SoBo the Bigelows.
Logging road, Perham Stream
Day 148 (9/5/19)
Total miles – 1964.9
Our ride back to the trail head picked us up at 8:00. Thus we made sure that we were at the curb a few minutes before she arrived. She pulled up as we came out. Not long after we were at the trail head and we set out. It was 49° as we walked into the forest. We knew that it would take awhile to climb to the top of Saddleback Mountain. As we drew near the summit, we could see signs of yesterday’s rain. Standing pools of deep water filled the trail. Running rivers flowed down the middle of the path. In-between the pools and streams, deep mud had to be maneuvered around. It was impossible to have dry feet today. We had to get over three peaks today: Saddleback Mountain, The Horn, and Saddleback Junior. All topped out with large slabs of granite. All the peaks and ridges connecting them were very windy and cold. When we took a break, we had to find a protected area. Walking down off of the peaks was almost as hard as climbing them. The backsides were steep slabs of wet rock forcing us to move slowly. Finally in the late afternoon, we came to Orbeton Stream. The river’s water was so high, we had to remove our shoes to get across. However, Bling did not. Being the mountain goat he is, he was able to jump across on the few boulders that jutted out of the water. After that, we started our next climb. It was much easier climb than this mornings. Consequently, we could make good time up it. We called a halt to the days hiking at an old logging road. It was one of the few level places on the mountain. We hope the weather holds for us. However, more rain is expected day after tomorrow on Saturday.
Day 146 and 147 (9/3/19 R and 9/4/19 R)
Miles – 0.0
Total miles – 1949.5
We had to wait until 9:30 for the PO to open to get our re-supply boxes. We have been trying to figure out if we should zero, slack pack, or hike out. A storm front is moving in with rain, lightening, and thunder. Our upcoming hike has us going over exposed peaks, which would put us in danger with a thunder storm passing through. We stopped by the outfitter to talk about a possible slack pack but we found that all of the roads were too far away. We would have had to hike 24 to 27 miles to reach the nearest location for slack packing. Thus we had to put that idea to rest. At the PO we received the boxes we should have had at Andover plus the Rangeley boxes. The mistake was on our part, not our friends at home mailing them. Nonetheless, this means we had way too much food. We returned to the room to sort the food. We decided to stay today and see what the weather holds for tomorrow. At the moment it is 90% chance a rain. Rangeley is situated between several large lakes. It’s location is very beautiful. If we are stuck in a town, Rangeley is a pretty nice one.
There was a bit of rain during the night. It looked stormy and rained on and off this morning. We mailed a box of extra things to our next town. Mainly we just sat around. A rare event. In our hotel room loons in the lake could be heard from our hotel room. They make such a hauntingly beautiful sound. The clouds cleared up in the afternoon enough to take several of the hotels kayaks and canoes out onto the lake. We had fun paddling around. A few hours later a storm cell crossed over and we had very heavy rain. The storm will be moving out tomorrow so we will be hiking out as well.