Owl’s Head – The Holy Grail of the NH48

What makes Owl’s Head the Holy Grail of the NH48?  For starters, it is set deep in the middle of the Pemigewasset Wilderness on unmaintained trails far from any parking lot, established campsites or huts and sits far off the beaten path of the many other popular hikes in this region.  It requires multiple river crossings that can be seriously hazardous during high water.  One has be prepared to spend a night in the backcountry OR be able to hike big miles to summit this mountain.  The actual “trail” or “path” up Owl’s Head is basically a super steep exposed rock slide of sand and loose gravel and boulders that basically crumble under foot.  Once you get up top, you are in the trees and have to climb over and under downed trees to find the summit cairn which has been moved in the last decade to the “true” summit making the whole trip .4 miles further than it already was. Because of all these features, Owl’s Head is often put off and left last on people’s list who are attempting the NH48.

After much perseverating over routes and options, Stud I finally came to the conclusion that we would attempt to reach the elusive Owl’s Head summit as an out and back 19-mile day hike in late summer/early fall when the water levels were low.  This way we wouldn’t have to cross the rivers with full packs and just have a lighter carry overall. Typically I have zero interest in hiking big miles.  For me, anything over 15 miles is what I consider big miles and I prefer a nice 8-12 mile hike in the mountains where I can have time for extended breaks to take in the forest atmosphere and notice as much as possible beyond the ground in front of me.  I knew this hike would be hard and different from other hikes.

5e, Stud and I head into the Lincoln Woods at 7am wearing most of our layers and start hiking at a pretty good clip to warm up.  We figure that we have about 14 hours of daylight and we guess that our hike will take about 12 hours.  We have our headlamps, water treatment, extra food and all our essentials.  We are hiking on an old logging railroad so the terrain is very flat and the leaves are just starting to change and it is magical.  Our first 2 river crossing are over bridges and we scope the water and keep our anticipatory talk about the upcoming river crossings to a minimum but we know we are all nervous about them.  We leapfrog with a few other hikers.  Its a clear day and the parking lot had been pretty full but most hikers are not headed to Owl’s Head.  That said, we are not the only ones on this adventure and we are relieved to meet others headed that way knowing we will not be completely alone out there.IMG_2794IMG_2795

The walk is lovely.  A true walk in the woods.  Unlike other hikes that just head straight up, we are hiking many miles over the course of many hours just to get close to this mountain.  We reach the first river crossing and I feel super anxious.  Stud rock hops across like its nothing and 5e and I follow suit.  But I don’t feel  relieved when I make it to the other side cuz I know there is more to come.  We reach the next crossing.  Same thing.  And the next.  By our fourth crossing we are cheering and finally feeling relief about the water.  We keep our breaks short and eat often.  We are walking and weaving along the river and its so pretty and peaceful and its flowing babble just lulls me into a rhythm.  The few hikers we pass are very friendly and humble and the vibe on the trail is one that I really love.  Owl’s Head starts to come into view on our right and we figure we must be getting close to the slide path that goes straight up it and we start to look for it knowing it may not be well marked having read this in the guidebooks.IMG_2796IMG_2797

We manage our last crossing just before reaching a pair of cairns marking the Owl’s Head Path and I consider them a threshold to this myth of a mountain.  We pause and take a short break before heading up.  We chug our water and refill our liters and have a last snack.  As we start our ascent, I am very aware of how deep in the woods we are and how late it feels to just be starting up a mountain and how we’ve already been hiking for over 4 hours and the toughest part is yet to come.  We reach the slidy stuff and each step up sort of slides back a bit.  It is profoundly steep and the gravel and loose rocks crumble under foot and we are all scared.  Stud panic hikes ahead and 5e expresses her fear just below me while I try to keep steadily moving up.  We do our best to not loosen the rocks so that they don’t fall on each other but they fall everywhere.  I grunt and laugh nervously and we encourage each other until alas we reach the top of the slide and find ourselves on more of a trail with more solid rock scrambles which are fun and a relief. The steepness starts to level out and we have entered the mossy greenery and we can see the blue sky start to peak thru the wind blown spruces ahead of us.

We climb over and under and around the downed trees towards the “new” summit and reach the cairn and it feels fricken awesome.   It reminds me of how I felt when I reached the summits of Mansfield and Camel’s Hump on the Long Trail.  I can’t believe I am standing on Owl’s Head.  It is surreal.  It feels amazing.  We collapse and eat and chug water and then we are joined by another hiker who asks us if we would help him cheer for his friend who is coming along behind him.  He tells us that this is his friends 48th and final mountain in completing his NH48 goal.  We are pumped!  We hear him coming and we all stand up and start clapping.  He is shocked to hear us as we start cheering for him and I almost get emotional.  He looks to be in his late 50’s and I find out later that he’s from NY and has been chipping away at the NH48 for the past 7 years.  Its my first time being on a NH48 summit with someone celebrating their final peak and he is touched and humble about it.  His friend’s final mountain is Madison and they plan to hike that the next day.  We congratulate them and end our summit break a little early to give them some time alone on the summit.

Walking back Stud spots a big brown rabbit.  Its was huge and hopping around on top of this mossy summit and something about that rabbit just really got to me.  A message for sure.  As we begin our descent down the slide trail we are pretty freaked out about going down but its okay.  We slip and slide and we loosen rocks that knock each other behind foot and I even have a dramatic fall at one point but we are fine and we just take our time and talk each other down it and when we reach the bottom and cross back over the threshold between the cairns, we collapse by the river.  We lay on the soft pine floor and chug our liters, eat snacks, refill water and rest.  Its mid afternoon and we have a long hike out.  We feel great and we manage to get across all the river crossings just fine.  A couple hours later the light starts to fade and so do we.  We are exhausted and things start to hurt.  The last 2 miles are brutal and I just want to collapse but I just keep walking and we all start to just drag ourselves forward.  I keep drawing my attention away from my physical discomfort and try to focus the trees, the river, the leaves, the beings and I a, so grateful to be on this land.  I am delighted to see so much Balsam Fir.

We reach the suspension bridge at 6:30PM, exactly 11.5 hours later and we climb down underneath it to soak our feet in the cold river.  I attempt to get all the way in but its too cold and the light is fading and I don’t want to get over cold.  But I wash the dirt off my calves and splash water on my face and arms.  We hobble to the car and change into jeans and flannel and it feels so good.  We drive away from the Lincoln Woods as the sun sets over the misty blue mountains and we feel incredibly accomplished, exhausted, sore, and content.

 

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Queer Youth Mountain top cabin to cabin Adventure with The Venture Out Project!

IMG_2590IMG_2591IMG_2592IMG_2593IMG_2594IMG_2596IMG_2597IMG_2598IMG_2599IMG_2600IMG_2601IMG_2602IMG_2604We awake at first light on the front porch of Mount Cardigan’s High Cabin.  We tiptoe inside and quietly make coffee, trying not to wake the exhausted youth asleep in their bunks.  We bring our coffee back to the porch and sit in our sleeping bags.  The youth start to stir.  I venture off the porch to study the spruces and firs with this new tree identification book I got.

The youth are pretty wrecked from yesterday’s climb and adjusting to the backpacking gear and the late night of chatter and giggling.  Movement is slow.  Bear Bait encourages their packing up process along by frying up pancakes.

We make our way down Mount Cardigan chatting about family, gender, oppression, identity and all the isms and social justice stuff that queers talk about.

It was hot, and when we get to the base there is a pond and some of us go swimming.  Swimming can be complicated for trans and gender nonconforming folks.  Fortunately we have the pond to ourselves, but even in a queer bubble, undressing and swimming can be loaded.  Having a body can just be an edgy thing.  That’s all I’ll say about that.

We dry off, eat snacks, refill water bottles, load up and drive north into the White Mountains.  Its a two hour ride to Jackson, NH, and we take the scenic Kancamagus Highway with its mountainous views and windy curves.  We find our next trail head and eat lunch on the side of a dirt road before heading up.

We start climbing Doublehead Mountain, and despite our best efforts to keep our youth hiking together as a group, they start to fall apart.  We sense the agitation and it becomes clear that our facilitation isn’t working.  We take a big pause and circle up on the trail.  Perry gracefully facilitates an honest check-in about feelings and it all comes out.  That beautiful moment has arrived whereas the adults (Perry, Bear Bait, and myself) must step back and pass the leadership baton to the youth who will then come up with their own plan for getting themselves up the mountain together as a group.

Perry, Bear Bait, and I linger behind giving them the time and space they need to figure it out.  We reunite with them at the Doublehead Cabin at the top and the morale is good.  There is a universal feeling of accomplishment and connectedness.  We enjoy a celebratory dinner of backcountry pita pizza.

The thing about queer youth is that they are so fricken compassionate, caring and patient with each other.  I’ve been hanging out in queer youth spaces for the past 8 years and its downright heart melting to watch how a group will open their hearts and circles to make room for that wild card who maybe was rejected everywhere else.  On this hike I watched folks slow down so that no one had to feel like they couldn’t keep up and I watched folks listen to stories that maybe weren’t welcome at school or at home.  When I say I feel inspired by queer youth and feel hopeful it’s cuz the youth are the future.  I feel pretty awesome about the future knowing some of the queer youth leaders I know will grow into adult leadership roles.  I was also inspired watching my fellow TVOP Instructors navigate that space between nurture, leadership, and letting go.

On our last afternoon I guided a Forest Bathing Walk on a flat stretch of trail between the summit of Black Mountain and the Black Mountain Cabin.  I invited all of us to take in the forest atmosphere just a little more deeply.  We moved very slowly thru an alpine conifer forest, circling up along the way, sharing our observations thru our opened senses and our tree companions.  We found metaphors in the forest reflecting our strengths and our deepening connections to each other and the more than human world.  We closed with a tea ceremony where I offered an infusion of Purslane Tea that I had brought from Jamaica Plain.  Purslane is a rugged and relentless plant that grows between sidewalk cracks and has the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids among all plants.  It’s also got iron and vitamin C.  We smelled and drank our tea, taking the forest into our bodies and then made our way back down to our cabin.

Its been a few days since we got off the trail.  I miss our incredible group and I wonder how their transitions home have been and if and when I may get to see them again.  Grateful.

 

 

Mount Hood

Drove up to Timberline Lodge and the sun was out and the sky was clear and the snow banks were 15-20 feet high on the side of the road.  Mount Hood loomed ahead.

We “split” our boards and put the skins on which are these long strips that stick on the bottom to give you traction so you can “skin” up the mountain.  We clipped in and headed up.  We started at 6000 feet and a mile and an hour later we were at 7000 feet.

We found a flattish spot and and sat and ate our pbjs and chugged water and chatted and tried to take in the endless views for about an hour unaware that our faces were burning.  The summit looked so close…but it was like an optical illusion cuz it’s over 11,000 feet and super steep and getting up it requires ropes, ice axes, crampons and technical mountaineering skills and I have zero of these things and zero interest in mountaineering.I did have an interest of continuing up the glacier but I felt weird from the altitude and Travis said even though it looked really gradual that it was actually very steep and this was my first time doing something like this so we decided to descend.  We peeled the skins off, clipped the board back together, moved the bindings and strapped in.  Oh the awkwardness of riding down on a rental.  I could hardly control the board and had trouble turning so I stayed close to the groomed Timberline area which is a ski resort  with lifts which we were basically next to.  Travis dropped into this gulley that looked really fun but I stayed up top since my board felt so weird.  I giggled all the way down stopping to do a face plant somersault which made me laugh so hard I wasn’t sure I’d be able get down.​We explored Timberline Lodge which is full of history describing how this massive place built in the 30’s on this giant active mountain volcano  where people ski all summer long.  We took advantage of the heated outdoor pool and jacuzzi.  We lounged by the gigantic fire places.  We smothered our sunburnt faces with fancy hotel lotion. We watched The Shining in our little bunk room where the windows were covered with snow.  We ate the infamous breakfast buffet.  We woke up to tons of snow and had to put chains on the tires – a new experience for me.  Of course the road was then clear so we pulled off to take them back off.  A fun adventure with chains. Once below the snow line we went for a little hike on the foothills of Mount Hood in the rainforest where there were old growth Douglas furs covered in electric green moss.  We hugged them.  Travis described them as Dr Seuss trees.  We walked long this raging river and it was intense how powerful that water felt.  Tomorrow we head to the coast!

Reuniting and a fun event!

Next week I am flying out to Portland, Oregon to reunite with Bear Bait who I have not scene since we finished the Long Trail in September!  Bear Bait has created an amazing itinerary of fun adventures to take me on when I get out there including:

This event cosponsored by Unlikely Hikers and  The Venture Out Project!

We are going to share some pictures and stories about our thru-hike of The Long Trail, the oldest long distance trail in the country.  We will also talk about how we planned for our thru-hike and answer any questions that anyone might have.  If you are near Portland, Oregon I hope you will join us!

Voluntary Hike Safe Card

I finally got myself a Hike Safe Card from New Hampshire Fish and Game.

For a measly $25, the money goes directly to NH Fish and Game who spend thousands of dollars and hours often risking lives in order to rescue hikers and outdoor enthusiasts who get into trouble out there on those rugged White Mountains and deep woods.

The card also keeps you from being liable for costs associated with a rescue mission.  For example, if you go out on an aggressive hike totally unprepared (like wearing jeans and carrying no food or water or map) and then something happens and you need a helicopter evacuation, than yes, you will get a bill for that and have to pay for your negligence.  You can still be held accountable even with the card (like the example I gave) but I think the idea of the card is more about that act of buying the card.  It shows that you are thinking ahead and making the extra effort to be prepared out there.  This is something I think about and talk about with my hiking companions when I go on a hike.  I consider how I might be evaluated if I were to be evacuated by a helicopter…like if NH Fish and Game looked in my backpack upon rescuing me and discovered that I only had 8/10 of the Ten Essentials, what would be the ruling if I forgot my whistle or compass?  Having the card simply helps me remember my whistle and compass.

I feel proud to carry one now…like I’ve made a commitment to hike more and be more safe and more prepared.  You might say I’m engaged with the White Mountains now.  Remind me to show you my shiny new laminated Hike Safe Card.

You can get your own Hike Safe Card here:
Hike Safe

North & South Kinsman

North Kinsman

  • Elevation: 4,293 Feet
  • Location: Franconia, NH
  • Date Hiked: October 2016
  • Companions: Stud
  • Trails: Fishin Jimmy Trail/Appalachian Trail

South Kinsman

  • Elevation: 4,358 Feet
  • Location: Franconia, NH
  • Date Hiked: October 2016
  • Companions: Stud
  • Trails: Kinsman Ridge Trail/Appalachian Trail

Sometime over the summer I proposed to Stud that we hike the NH48.  Even though I have already hiked almost half of them, I never considered myself much of a peak bagger and I never bothered to keep track until now.  I’ve always been motivated up mountains for the sweet smell of the pine trees, the fresh air, the exercise, the quiet and the magic of the forest.  I love a view and I do enjoy a summit very much but I’ve always been cautious about letting myself get too focused on summiting.  I don’t want to miss out on the journey and I also want to be safe.  My first attempt up Katahdin was thwarted by fast moving dark clouds and hail just as I was less then a quarter mile from the summit.  I took a cut off trail and headed back down.  I’m not trying to die on a mountain.  I go up mountains to live!

All that said, I was inspired by these women to allow myself the goal of hiking all the NH48 and I decided to ask Stud to do it with me.  I often hike the same trails and the same mountains and I have spots in the White Mountains that motivate me to plan trips around but the idea of trying to complete this list of the NH48 brings so much new adventure. There are mountains on the list that I have never heard of and there are sections of the Whites that I have never even been to!  There are so many ridge lines to explore that I might not explore otherwise.  I am really excited about this longterm goal with Stud.  We are thinking of it as a 5-year plan.

Stud and I hiked our first 4000 footer together in 2013.  As of yesterday we have done 8 of them so far.  I have done 24 of them over the past 6 years with various friends but I am going to re-hike them all with Stud so we can complete the list together and support each other in reaching a shared goal.  Stud is totally into it and even made me this amazing journal to keep track of our adventures in!

Yesterday we day tripped into Franconia Notch where we headed up to Lonesome Lake and then hopped on the Appalachian Trail on a section called “Fishin Jimmy Trail” that intersects with the “Kinsman Ridge Trail”.  We summited North Kinsman (4293ft) and South Kinsman (4358).  It took us about 8 hours to go just under 10 miles.  The trail was steep and rocky and rugged and brought back sweet memories of the Long Trail.  It was cloudy in the morning but by the time we got to our first summit the clouds started to dissipate right in front of our very eyes and the Franconia Ridge revealed itself in all its massive glory with Mount Lafayette dominating the range with its summit hung in a cloud.  The foliage seemed to be peaking down in the valleys with large areas of reds and oranges and rusts.  The sun burned thru and warmed us just enough to be able to linger on the summits without cooling down too much although we did cool down fast and had to keep moving.  By the time we were descending the skies were clear and the commanding views made it hard to watch our steps down the wet craggy rocky path.  Legs are sore today!  Even though North and South Kinsman are our 7th and 8th 4000 footers together, this hike felt like our official NH48 kick off climb since this was our first hike since we decided to do the NH48 together.  Only 40 more peaks to go and if the weather allows us, we may try to bag another 3-5 next weekend.




Franconia Notch

Despite having spent my whole life in New England, the fall foliage still blows my mind every year.  Ayla and I decided to join the other leaf peeping tourists this weekend and head to the White Mountains to stretch our legs on some trails and take in the rusty hues.

We threw a bunch of camping gear and some snacks in the car and left at 6am driving up into Franconia Notch.  Our first stop was the Flume which is a natural gorge extending 800 feet at the base of Mount Liberty. The granite walls  rise to a height of 70 to 90 feet and are 12 to 20 feet apart and there is a boardwalk built onto the side of the rock wall the goes over the water running thru the bottom of the gorge.  There is also a tiny cave that we crawled thru.  No other adults dared it.  Just us and the kids.  I was just barely able to squeeze myself thru a tiny hole at the end of it by like doing a belly-flop-face-plant type maneuver with my legs up in the air behind me while I dragged myself toward the light.  We dusted ourselves off and continued across a little covered bridge overlooking a massive deep natural pool and some other viewpoints.

After a short water and snack break at the car, we were able to walk to another a trailhead that goes up Pemigewasset Mountain which is a little mountain that opens up to some bald rock ledges overlooking some breath taking foliage.  The summit was hopping.  Not only was it a lovely Saturday of Columbus Day Weekend but it was also a Canadian Holiday and Franconia Notch was packed.  Fortunately we did our hiking adventure early and were leaving the area before the place was totally blown out.  I expected hikers to be out and about but I was shocked when I discovered LaFayette Campground was full.  We stopped in Franconia Village to pick up some supplies before venturing to a more remote area of the White Mountains where we could find a quieter place to camp in the National Park called Wildwood Campground where there was plenty of spots.  I put up the tent and Ayla started a fire.  I chopped up an onion, a seitan sausage that Tracy had made and some mushrooms and tossed them in the tiny dutch oven with some olive oil and let it simmer in the fire.  After that was done we poured in some leftover butternut squash soup we brought from home which heated up quickly in the hot cast iron dutch oven and we poured it over our mushroomy mixture.  We toasted some sour dough rolls we had made at home and walla!  Campfire Dinner!  Later we boiled some water for fancy hot chocolate and just sat talking and watching the embers warm our feet until it was dark enough to get in our sleeping bags at 7PM.  We were just dozing off by 8 when the rain gently began hitting the tent.  Perfect timing.

Woke up around 6 and waited for the rain to slow down before exiting the tent.  It always sounds more rainy in a tent then it actually is outside and once I was up and out, it was barely raining.  We threw everything in the car and meandered down the lovely Daniel Webster Scenic Highway which was very scenic indeed.  So many mountains and the leaves were just miraculous.  We stopped at a diner for coffee and pancakes and then continued on this little highway that weaves in and out of 93 going thru lots of quaint little New England villages.  We stopped at almost every little Country Store and ate olde timey candy and admired the local crafts.  We found a farm stand and bought lots of squash from a nice fellow.  I got a blue hubbard. My favorite. We also bought a spagetti squash, a buttercup, a curry and a cute little pumpkin for Tracy.  We took a short detour into Weirs Beach where we played some pinball and other classic arcade games before finally giving in to getting on the main highway and driving home.  I so needed this little adventure with Ayla who I call “The Cherub” since there really isn’t a word for “my partners daughter”.  I’ve known Ayla since she was 11.  She is now 20.  I am not her step parent but I’m not just her friend. We are family. I’m her Tam.  And she’s my Ayla aka “The Cherub”.   And we have fun hanging out together and it was so nice to get away and just be spontaneous and see stuff and talk about life and all that.

Post hike

It’s been just about two weeks since I finished hiking the Long Trail. I reunited with my awesome and incredible partner who picked me up in Northampton at The Venture Out Project Headquarters where Bear Bait and I were hanging out after generously being picked up by Perry in North Adams.

Talk about a sight for sore eyes!  I’ve never been away from my partner for this long in the 8 years we’ve been together. In the 4 years we’ve lived together I’ve never been away from home for more than 10 days. Infact the last time I left Jamaica Plain for this long was 15 years ago when I spent a month at Haystack in Maine and then drove with my friend from Boston to Santa Cruz, CA via the Deep South following a map I saved from a skateboard magazine detailing every skatepark in the US and trying to skate as many as possible along the way. (This was before internet)  Before mountains inspired me to adventure, outdoor skateparks with concrete bowls led me to almost every state and up and down both coasts on many road trips.

Even after two weeks of being home I am still enamored by running water, flush toilets, the kitchen and the stove with its endless-seeming gas flow, chairs, vegetables with their water still in them. I enjoy the little things like the opportunity to wash my hands and I love making toast and real coffee.

I was extremely tired when I got home and was mostly grounded but there was definitely a crash.  I drove to Vermont with my pal Seven and picked up a Long Trail hiker on the side of the road in Johnson and drove them back to the trail which soothed some of my post trail grief.  We also drove thru smugglers notch and saw rocky craggy caves on this notch road. Then we went to the Green Mountain Club Welcome Center where I ritualistically handed in my journal and Long Trail End-To-Enders Certification Application which will formally put me in the archives with others who have hiked the trail and also award me a patch!  I also bought myself a hat.


After a week I feel like I finally recovered from a month of unrestful sleep and adjusted back to my urban environment. It’s very loud where I live. I’m on a Main Street directly on a major city bus route and a block from a fire station. Lots of sirens and squeaky breaks and engines of large vehicles. It’s overwhelming sometimes.

I finally went back to work this week as I have spent all my money. I am happily self employed. I was reminded of hiking down the forehead of Mansfield today at work as I have my ladder set up on top of some sketchy scaffolding of wood planks over a stairwell.  I actually think I was more comfortable and less afraid as a result of some of the sketchy steep spots I climbed in Vermont.  It feels good to work again but it’s emotionally challenging being out in the world surrounded by the chaotic energy of stressed out people rushing around chasing shiny things.  I’m booked solid for work for the next 3 weeks which feels both oppressive and relieving and I’m grateful for the work.

While I did wash my backpack and aired out some gear, my stuff is still exploded in my room. I think part of me is in denial that the hike is over and I don’t want to put anything away.  I’m looking forward to some fall hiking in the White Mountains in October after I catch back up on my finances this month.  I hope to hike more and do less and make my life simpler thus stay more connected and present to the stuff that matters most like the sky and love.

I do feel that I released something while walking  n the woods for a month. I had a self esteem boost that has enabled me to be more free. I’m just shocked sometimes when I realize I’ve been internalizing negative messages reflected back to me by a mainstream culture where bodies like mine aren’t enough. I am just that much more committed to this lifelong practice of self love and self acceptance as a hairy female bodied, pot bellied,  masculine mannered, male presenting (while not intending to pass and ridden with a lifetime of bathroom anxiety), sometimes slightly scruffy bearded, short, queer, butch, soft core, breastless 38 year old woman person human!

I met marathon runners who couldn’t handle the trail. I met conditioned athletes who have done all kinds of remarkable physical things but they could barely hike in the Northeast.  I saw people with fancy expensive ultralight gear and fit looking bodies who complained and wanted to quit. The Long Trail of Vermont is rugged.  The White Mountains of New Hamshire are rugged. I hike these ridge lines with great joy and sheer determination and I often give my mind all the credit.  But I must give my body some credit too.  I am strong. I may not look it but I am. And I am tough as nails.

Coming soon: A gear review and how my $35 New Balance trail runners faired the 272+ miles and how I missed my boots thus my overall footwear dilemma.

Manchester to Massachusetts! 68 miles

Total Long Trail Miles: ALL OF THEM!!!!!  272 miles!!!

Plus a few extra miles of the Appalachian Trail into Massachusetts and then some road walking into North Adams.

Hiking is weird.  It can be so meditative and relaxing and extremely uncomfortable at the same time.  We use landmarks like shelters, mountain tops and road crossings to break up the miles and to decipher where we will stop for breaks and estimate our timing so we have a sense on when we can expect to get places to make the mileage feel manageable. 

Sometimes I feel desperate for that next shelter or mountain top to appear the same way I have felt ready for a bell or gong to ring ending a formal sitting meditation.  If I happen to actually catch myself suffering I pretend there is no landmark and that time doesn’t exist and all I do is walk and that my only reality is hiking and in those moments I have been able to make great friends with this trail and take in more of my surroundings.  Other times I get stuck on particular discomforts and how I might make them go away.  I can get caught up with a strap adjustment on my pack or indecision over whether I need to stop and rest or push myself harder.  Ultimately, every opportunity I have had where I’ve been able to simply notice my discomfort out here and let go of trying to “fix it” has liberated me in profound ways.  As someone who prefers to stay home and feels safest when in control and distrusts very trustworthy things, this hike has given me some new freedoms and highlighted some of the places I get stuck.  

My hiking partner and oldest friend have gone thru a lot leading up to and during this hike.  I am deeply grateful to discover the ways we have matured in relationship to each other and am extremely proud of the grace we have been able to bring to inevitable tensions that arise when dehydration, hunger, exhaustion, and physical pain are a constant obstacle.  It’s been great to have a companion out here who makes me laugh and gets my humor and we can encourage each other and state our needs and look out for each other as well.  We have taken turns taking care of each other around things like water gathering and dinner prep finding a natural flow of shared labor with a lot of care and love.

Despite hiking an average of 13 miles up and down mountains everyday for the last 25 days, I still ache at the end of the day, my feet still blister and throb, and I continued to stagger into each shelter half delirious where I toss my pack off my sweaty back and plop down on the edge of the shelter and sit there for a good 10 minutes soaking in the sweet relief of resting my body and chugging water and eating my trailmix until I can muster the energy to take off my shoes and set up my tent. Travis works on finding a temporary home for hammy meaning he hangs his hammock near the shelter and does some afternoon reading and relaxing until it’s time to find a proper sleeping spot.

We started referring to the shelters themselves as the “community centers” since it’s where folks convene and socialize. So once we establish good camping  spots in the surrounding woods where tenty (my tents new name) and hammy  (Travis’s hammock) can camp nearby, we set up our homes and get situated before returning to the “community center”(the shelter).  Travis does some extensive tarp tying over his hammock while I get in my tent and sing about having a wilderness wipe-down which is a catchy little song I made up cause I got these wet wipes called “wilderness wipes” and travis sings along while I have my little bath. 

We get in our dry camp clothes which are the clothes we preserve for the end of the day and never hike in.  Then we grab our food, water bottles, stove and pot and head to the “community center” to cook dinner and socialize with other hikers.

The further south we get, the more hikers there are to talk with and its been fun to chat with folks who are just starting the trail as we got closer and closer to finishing.  People have been congratulating us and it feels great.  Especially when we get it from Appalachian Trail hikers who have walked all the way here from Georgia! For those folks to smile and give us props after all the miles and states they have hiked thru feels really awesome!

We left Manchester getting a ride to the trail from Jeff of The Green Mountain House hostel. Best hostel ever!!!  He drove us along with a NoBo LT hiker by the name Lost Sailer who we fist bumped and wished happy trails to before departing.

We huffed and puffed up Spruce Peak and cruised in to Stratton Pond where the sun was out and the water was beautiful. We soaked our feet and thought about swimming but the breeze was kind of chilly and there were so many folks hanging out and we got shy.  We met an AT (Appalachian Trail) thru hiker in her 70’s who was vegan and raising money to save the Elephants. We chatted with her about eating vegetarian on the trail and shared some tips.

Stratton Pond is a very popular camp site on the AT/LT and given that it was Friday afternoon of Labor Day Weekend, the place was filling up with weekenders so we decided to press on and hike up Stratton Mountain even though we were tired and it was after 2pm.  We got to the summit and it was beautiful and quiet and we took the .7 spur over to the ski resort where the views were epic and we found a great spot to stealth camp.  We cooked our dinner and watched the layers of mountains change colors against the setting sun until it was too cold to do anything but get in our sleeping bags. It got down into the 40s that night!

Woke up on Stratton freezing and covered in mountain dew but the sunrise was unreal!!!!  We found a heated bathroom by the chairlift and made our coffee and ate breakfast in there which sounds gross but It was pure luxury at the time.  We hung our rain flies till they were dry and then headed down the mountain and had almost reached the Stratton-Arlington Road when we had to stop and eat. We ate lunch at 10:30 and then walked out towards the road and discovered there was Trail Magic!!! We were full but we ate some cookies and filled our waters and I took a couple hard boiled eggs for the road.  We chatted with the guy who had set up the Trail Magic and thanked him and heard about his Appalachian Trail stories.  We pushed on and got very sleepy since we didn’t sleep so well on the cold mountain.  We got to Story Spring and rested. Travis took a nap in the shelter while I chatted with some hikers.  We pressed on and hiked to Kid Gore Shelter where we met Earth Dog & Snaker, two guys in their mid 60’s section hiking the AT.  They were funny and engaging to talk to.  We also met a NoBo LT hiker named Moose Meister who said her food bag got ripped down from a tree and torn into by an unidentifiable large rodent when she was just 15 miles into the trail.  She lost her first 4 days worth of food and had to go into town and resupply after one day on the trail.  

It was another cold night at the Kid Gore shelter.  Woke up to another epic sunrise and after a  leisurely breakfast we headed up Glastenbury Mountain whose summit was flat and cool and in the pines.  We climbed the fire tower at the top and got more epic 360 degree views. Chatted with some AT NoBos before hiking down to the Goddard Shelter to get water.  I was fading by mid day so Travis told me about the Lord Of The Rings in great detail and it got us up and over Maple Hill and into Melville Shelter.  Met a LT NoBo who got lost on his second day and ended up getting a boat ride across a lake back to the trail from a resident in the woods.  We also met a couple women who just graduated UVM.  We cooked dinner and realized we were out of fuel which meant no more hot coffee or hot meals.  But one of the hikers we met offered us some extra snacks since she was hiking out in the morning and heading back to work and it got us thru!

Had a rugged climb in and out of Route 9 (the road that goes into Bennington).  There was an endless rock staircase in and out of that road and it nearly killed me.  Intense morning!  We were really feeling the exhaustion from the trail and collapsed on Consultation Peak.  We were so tired and running low on food.  We added some electrolytes to our water and pushed on feeling the boost and making it to the Seth Warner shelter which is the last/first or shall I say the southern most shelter on the Long Trail.  Shortly after we arrived the place filled up with Northbound Long Trail Hikers     just starting the trail.  We felt like rock stars with all the congratulations they gave us and we wished them happy times as they head north. They had lots of questions and we happily answered all of them and offered tips and any useful information we could think of.  Then we did a little ritual with some flying magic papers that Travis’ partner Jesse sent us.  We lit up our hopes and dreams and watched the embers fly being extra careful not to burn down the forest.  We ended our last night on the trail with a game Yahtzee.

Woke up early and excited to hike to the end.  Got to the Massachuestts border at 8:30 this morning and cheered.  Our celebration was cut short by an obnoxious AT hiker who assumed we were like high school boys and didn’t believe we were 38 and 39 years old and all he had to say was that at least 25 year old women probably still throw themselves at us.  Eye roll.  Where to begin here. A. I am a woman and I am life partnered with someone much older then me. B. Travis is a flaming homo. C. Don’t talk about women throwing themselves on people. D. We just finished the Long Trail!  Either give us a cupcake or move along! 

We hiked it off ranting and raving a bit.  We’ve experienced a disappointing amount of offensive comments out here. Generally if someone thinks I’m a dude, I just go with it.  But when dudes start talkin the kind of exploitive objectifying bullshit that they don’t talk about in front of women, it’s uncomfortable.  My instinct is to hike away and then later I regret not having come out and saying something about how it’s not cool to talk about women like that.  Whatever.

We hiked the 3.8 miles to a road and then a postal carrier guided us towards a diner which was very hiker friendly.  We were exhausted and decided that hiking 3000 feet up Mount Greylock on the AT was not in the cards for us today.  We’ve done it before and we needed to celebrate our Long Trail victory so we walked into North Adams and checked into a Holiday Inn, showered and did laundry and will rest and enjoy ourselves until we head back east tomorrow.

It’s been epic!



Inn @ Long Trail to Manchester: 50 miles

Total Long Trail miles: 218

I’m sick of trailmix but I keep eating it anyway. I crave cheese. I now carry “seriously sharp” cheddar and happily slice it with my tiny knife.  

I mainly sleep in my tent. Travis sleeps in his hammock which he has named “hammy” and at the end of a long day we talk about finding a home for hammy.  Fortunately there are lots of trees. 

We camp near shelters or tent sites cuz they have privys and water sources (although the water has been dry lately).  I mostly avoid sleeping in the shelters cuz of the mice and needing my own private space at the end of the day.  But sometimes I don’t feel like setting up my tent or if it’s raining then I will sleep in the shelter.

We pass few Appalachian Trail NoBos and it seems the bubble has left Vermont. We’ve heard it described like a mullet hairstyle: “business in the front, party in the back.” Meaning, the latter part of the AT hikers are partying their way down the trail.  We are happy to have missed this party.  Most of the AT hikers we’ve met are really nice.

I drink leaf debris and floaties in my water and I don’t even care.  We treat it of course!  Although everybody reminds us just in case we forget.  Water has been dry for some stretches so we carry extra.

After a fun visit with Travis’ Mom & Aunt (Judy and Marje) we got back on the trail and climbed up part of Pico following the Sherburne Pass trail which took us over to Killington. We were blessed with another 70 degree sunny day and the climb was beautiful and full of disheveled pine trees with blue skies and misty mountains in beyond.  We made it up to Cooper Lodge and dropped our packs taking a spur trail .2 miles up to the summit. It was super steep and the wind was intense. It kept going up and up and I couldn’t stop myself from howling into the wind when I finally made it to the top where I was greeted by a boy who was shocked that we had climbed up instead of having taken the gondola up as he had with his family. We really blew his mind when we told I’m we had walked from Canada. The 360 views went on forever and the blue hues were almost impossible to take in.  We climbed over the summit towards the snack bar and enjoyed some mountain top snackbar treats along with running water and flush toilets! 

We headed back down to Cooper lodge, shouldered our packs and trucked on down the mountain on a lovely stretch of trail finding our way to Governor Clement shelter which was built in 1929 and it the second oldest shelter on the trail. There were a group of women also staying here and it was fun camping with them.  

The next morning we flew 7 miles to route 103 where we hiked west .5 mile to the Qu Whistle stop Restaurant where we ate lots of lunch and lounged in the sun. It was hard to hike back to the trail with full bellies but we pushed on and upward crossing an older suspension bridge.  We got to Minerva Shelter where we thought we might stay but it had bad energy and was kinda gross and the porcupines had chewed it to bits AND there was no water so we continued and ended up doing a 16 mile day with a very steep scent of a he last mile and I had to dig deep to get up that thing. Our packs were extra heavy cuz we were carrying extra water since the word on the trail was that things were dry ahead and there would be no water for miles. Stayed at Greenwall which had the best privy I’ve scene on the whole trail so far.  The thing had a front porch!  Met a couple NoBo AT hikers there as well as a NoBo LT hiker whose trail name was Atreyu!

The next morning I was thinking about my meditation group as we ascended White Rocks Mountain.  It was a Wednesday and my meditation group meets on Wednesdays.  We came upon these amazing rock gardens on the mountains and I felt so connected to my fellow yogis back home.  We hiked on passing some lakes and rivers and I had a mid day swim and while it was freezing, it was so refreshing to rinse off some salt. We ate lunch by the river and then climbed Baker Peak which was an existed rocky summit treat!!!  Also I hiked by a woman thru hiking in the buff. Such freedom out here.  14 miles later we had Griffith Lake to ourselves where I swam again and we cooked our dinner at like 4:45 and were in our respective hammock and tent by 6pm.  

This morning we woke to blue skies and climbed up Peru Peak and hiked another gorgeous ridge line over Styles Peak and up Bromley Mountain for more 360 views and mountains beyond mountains.  We descended into Manchester and hitched a ride to the post office to resupply and then walked into town for town for some pizza and groceries before getting picked up by Jeff of The Green Mountain House Hiker Hostel!  This place is great! Showers, laundry, loaner clothes, a free pint of Ben & Jerrys ice cream (which I’m too tired to eat) and a ride back to the trail in the morning!