August 27, 2017

Jay and I have felt uniquely blessed to see hiker beginnings at both ends of the Appalachian Trail.  In February, we were NOBOs (North Bound), with approximately 80 other eager hikers.  (3,112 NOBOs participated in the voluntary registration with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.  About 80 of them began hiking during the week that we started.)  Then in July, we became Flipflop SOBOs (South Bound), climbing Katahdin and heading south with roughly 55 hikers that week.  (A total of 387 registered with the ATC.)

Hiking south, the difficult terrain of Maine and New Hampshire presents south bound hikers with unique challenges, beginning with the arduous climb of Katahdin, then immediately slogging through bogs and rocks in the 100 Mile Wilderness, followed by vertical trails through mountains of granite!  It has been a pleasure to share these challenges with some engaging personalities and exceptional hikers.

We have also enjoyed re-meeting north bound hikers that we had last seen in southern Appalachia.  What a treat, to suddenly see a familiar face approaching through the woods!  Henry, a fast-hiking engineer, was the first NOBO re-acquaintance.  After almost 2,000 miles, he still reveled in every day of his hike.  In mid-July, we met two hikers who recognized us, though the last 1,000 miles had changed them beyond recognition.  Dakota had lost weight, slimming down to a trim hiker shape, while Cruise Control had gained muscle, bulking up from a slender weed to a sleek physique!  After that, it seemed we recognized hikers nearly every day until mid-August before the stream of familiar faces slowed to a trickle.

Today, at a trail angel’s house, we met Mowgli, last seen in Shenandoah National Park.  His companion back then, Dante, was no longer with him.  “Dante had things happen,” Mowgli informed us.  “Like, one time I told him the plant was poison nettles. He said it was just poison ivy, and he wasn’t allergic.  Then he grabbed a bunch and rubbed it all over his hands. … It was nettles all right.  Anyway, he finally had to get off trail when he got drunk one night and ate a rock.  That sent him to the hospital.”

(For more about this trail angel house, see our page of Trail Angels on our menu.)

Mowgli eats left over macaroni with meatballs on the porch of a trail angel’s house. The resident cat relaxes beside him.

Yesterday, entering the trees after resupplying in Norwich, VT, we were delighted to see Specs, a young man with whom we spent a zero day at Doe River Hostel, near Roan Mountain, TN.  We stopped to talk for a good while, catching up on each other’s lives.  Specs has lost 65 pounds while hiking, and is looking great!  We shared jokes and stories, including Specs telling us about getting bluff charged by a bear in Shenandoah National Park.  He has enjoyed support from his parents and sister while on the trail, feeling that his adventure has been part of a family affair.  What fun!

Specs and Jay trade jokes and stories.

Meeting all these NOBOs, while still hiking south with SOBOs, has reminded me that a large part of the AT experience revolves around each person’s unique hike.  One never knows what or who is around the next bend in the trail!

Southbound …

July 5, 2017

The day after climbing Katahdin, the mountain already looks a little far away!

So here we are, heading south on the AT, hips a little creaky, legs a little rubbery, but ready for more adventure and beauty!  Jay, with the wisdom of experience, has scheduled ten easy miles for us, from Katahdin Stream Campground to Abol Pines Campground, ending our recovery day with a lovely fish and chips dinner at the Abol Bridge Northern Restaurant!

We are both sore, and battling headaches from the exertion of climbing Katahdin.  The miles slowly pass with much natural beauty attempting to distract us from the pain of our bodies.  Little Niagara and Big Niagara Falls are awesome!  Water pours over a series of ledges, throwing up mist and froth, swirling at the bottom into a classic pool.  “If this were anywhere else in the lower 48 states,” I remark to Jay, “there would be a road to these falls, with crowds of people!  Instead, we have it all to ourselves.  This is incredible!”

July 6, 2017

Both Jay and I are still tired from Katahdin!  This is very surprising to me.  I really expected to feel better today, after taking an easy day yesterday and getting a delicious meal at the restaurant.  I guess climbing that mountain is not something one does on a whim!

We begin to meet many other southbounders today.  All are tired, yet a little giddy.  After all, they just conquered a trail that had to be painted onto rocks!  How tough could the next 2,180 miles be compared to that?

As I think of all the people hiking the AT, each with his or her own agenda, schedule, ideas, joys, fears, experiences, a young hiker named Homer puts it into words:  “There is only one path, the path you take.”

July 7-9, 2017

We enter the 100 Mile Wilderness!


During this three days, we gradually recover our energy.  We also see many lakes and ponds, bogs, moss, trees, mountains.  Beauty is all around, it is our job to notice it.

We continue to meet more southbounders, beginning to put names with faces as we leapfrog with several small groups of hikers.

We hike, swim, eat, sleep, and get up to do it again!  The lakes and ponds are so shallow, that the water is actually warm, a real treat!  One day we see loons, another day we see mergansers.

On July 9, as I’m walking down the trail, I look up to see a marten peering at me from behind a tree trunk!  I stop, amazed and enthralled.  “Jay, look!” I whisper.  We watch as the marten runs up the tree trunk, peers at us again, makes a flying leap to another tree, then disappears into the green north woods.  Wow!

July 10, 2017

White Cap Mountain begins our day, the first mountain since Katahdin that is above tree-line.  My pack feels heavy, and I am very slow over rocks and roots.  The top is cold, windy, a little rainy.  We take a picture, then scurry down to the protection of tree-line!

This same day we also climb Hay Mountain, West Peak, and Gulf Hagas Mountain.  Yes, this is the AT. Either the trail goes up, or it goes down.  Yee-hah!

July 11-13, 2017

The trail continues to challenge us with bogs, boulders, roots, rocks, mud, granite, vertical scrambles and horizontal boardwalk balances!  A hiker named Mike describes the roots as looking like someone spilled a bowl of spaghetti across the ground.  When it rains, those roots are about as slippery as spaghetti also!


The trail also continues to give beauty at every turn, with sunlit lakes, misty bogs, mountain peak views, and deep forest shade.  My pace has slowed, from a 45 minute mile to a 75 minute mile.  It takes all day just to go 10 miles.  If I think of how slowly I am hiking, I get discouraged.  But Jay says to keep enjoying this beauty, and he is right.  We are lucky to have enough time, enjoying the warm summer months in these north woods.


July 14, 2017

We made it to Monson, Maine!  Hot showers! Clean clothes!  Resupply!  Restaurants!

Incredible food at the Spring Creek Bar-B-Que!

July 15, 2017

Monson is having it’s Summerfest this weekend.  What fun!

This is the “Anything Floats” Race, with three entries!  Homemade craft paddled across the Monson Pond.  Fun!

The day ends with fireworks at the ball field while the Spring Creek Bar-b-que Restaurant pipes patriotic tunes, including, “Proud to Be an American” and “The 1812 Overture”.  What a lovely end to our zero day!


For more pictures of  our adventures, please see our photo pages on the Menu!