From Springer Mountain Georgia to Mt. Katahdin Maine

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Daystar reports "We made it" Mahoosuc Notch

Daystar texted early this morning that she and Gribley would be hiking what's considered to be the 5 hardest miles on the AT. What's a parent to do but pray all day for their safety!  Here's a description:

Mahoosuc Notch is a deep gap in the Mahoosuc Range of western Maine. The boulders on this mile-long section of trail present obstacles that must be climbed over and sometimes under, creating a unique hiking experience. There are occasional ten-foot drops, and places where packs must be removed to squeeze beneath a boulder.  Many thru-hikers call this stretch one of the slowest on the  trail. This so-called "killer mile" or the "Toughest Mile" is a very tough section that can cause even the most experienced hikers to slow down.

Around 8:30 pm, I got this text:  "We made it!!  Lots of fun, crazy climbing.  Definitely not the hardest part of the trail for me.  Coming down Moosilauke and that terrible rocky day in PA were way worse."   She and Gribley hiked Mahoosuc Notch and Mahoosuc Arm, and they were at Speck Pond Shelter for the night.  Speck Pond is the highest body of water in Maine.  They're shooting for Andover by Saturday morning.  Here are two pics of Gribley on the rocks of Mahoosu Notch.


It's Official, Maine!!

Macon makes Maine the evening of August 29.  Here are some other pictures in case you missed them on Facebook.
Hiking at dusk through the Presidentials in the White Mountain Range
Looking at Mt. Washington from Lake of Clouds

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Maine Tomorrow

"They were all terribly footsore. No spring or rebound was left in them. Their feet fell heavily on the trail, jarring their bodies and doubling the fatigue of a day's travel. There was nothing the matter with them except that they were dead tired. It was not the dead-tiredness that comes through brief and excessive effort, from which recovery is a matter of hours; but it was the dead-tiredness that comes through the slow and prolonged strength drainage of months of toil. There was no power of recuperation left, no reserve strength to call upon. It had all been used, the last least bit of it. Every muscle, every fibre, every cell, was tired, dead tired." - Jack London, Call of the Wild

I've been reading Jack London's Call of the Wild lately on the trail and that passage really hit home when I read it. Of course London was writing about a team of sled huskies, not hikers, but I feel like it accurately describes how we are feeling these days. My legs have become slender, muscular, and strong, but with every step uphill, I can feel the 1900 miles behind me and my legs are dead tired.

We will cross the border into Maine tomorrow and with it signifies the beginning of the end. Maine itself has been a goal this whole trip, and to make it there means there really is a light at the end of the tunnel. This has been the BEST thing I have ever done, and it's starting to hit me that it's almost over.

Tonight I'm camped by a beautiful lake with Gribley & White Wolf. Everyone picked up their poison of choice for the big border party, and Gribley packed in a package of boxed wine - 3 liters/4 bottles/6 pounds of Cabernet Sauvignon for us to share. We've tapped into it tonight & built a campfire, toasting each other to all that's behind us and everything yet to come. Cheers!

The main thing is to keep the Maine thing the main thing

Macon texted her mother yesterday evening to report she is almost to Maine.  She had a couple of days in NH with a tummy bug but she is back to 100% and is hoping to complete the trek sometime mid September barring accident or injury.  She has a post that is lost in the ether, but hopefully the tech crew can find it and get it posted in the next day or so.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Madison descent

Hiker Trash on the summit of Mount Washington, New Hampshire
 Got a text from Macon this morning.  They are on the way down Mt. Madison this morning, the group ascended before sunrise and watched the sun come up near the summit.  Yesterday they climbed Mt. Washington and she said the ridge line yesterday at sunset was beautiful.  At the summit of Mt. Washington was a zoo with tourists who had driven up and were gawking at the thru-hiker "trash".  She is meeting a Sewanee friend today and will come off the trail for about 24 hours, get to Gorham Sunday and into Maine mid week.  Stay tuned!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Feeling Presidential

Franconia Ridge

Macon checked in from the White Mountain range in New Hampshire, and more specifically the Presidentials, a chain of peaks named for presidents.  She should make Gorham, NH late this weekend and Maine early next week.  The crew is intact for the most part and she has caught up with the New Jersey crew.  With service intermittent at best updates will come as we get them.  She is on the home stretch and comments that "...the Whites are the coolest thing I have ever seen by the way."  Well that is saying something given some of the really cool things she has seen so far.  You can see for yourself by clicking here; Live view of the Presidentials from Mt. Washington observatory

See what I did?
Missy says Macon will meet up with a Sewanee friend in the next couple of days so hopefully she will check in with a post of her own.   BTW she is under 350 miles to Katahdin (Baxter Peak) woo-hoo!

Friday, August 17, 2012


It was exciting when I crossed the Massachusetts border, realizing I had 10 states behind me and only four to go. After being in VA for such a long time (over a month!), it still is so exciting to be crossing off states so quickly again.

My first day in Mass was one of my favorites on the trail. The weather was amazingly gorgeous and I was back in a good hiking groove, doing 18+ miles a day, feeling healthy & strong. I'd had some good time hiking on my own and was able to devote some time to think about the next chapter after the trail, which I'm really excited about (stay tuned for those details!).

Anyway, I crossed the border and hiked along Sages Ravine - a really pretty walk along a stream. The trail led me up Laurel Ridge. To my left was cool forests and to my right was a view, for a good bit. I hiked up Race Mountain along a rocky, exposed trail. I was so grateful for the cool, sunny day and the clear views I had the entire climb to the top.

Race Mountain
After Race Mtn, I hiked up & over Mt. Everett and then down a steep descent to Jug End Road. I sat and chatted with some southbounders. We had just started to see some and it was fun to finally have a conversation with a few. Typically, northbounders begin sometime Feb-May, and southbounders leave Katahdin June-August. After they headed on, I waited for Dom, the farmer/owner of Moon in the Pond Farm. I'd made arrangements to be picked up Saturday night, work on the farm Sunday, and then be dropped back off on the trail Monday morning.

For those of you who don't know, I've had a big interest in local farming for years. My thesis project for my Art Major at Sewanee was a documentary film & photo project about local farming. This past fall, I spent time in the south of France with the WWOOF program working on small organic farms. While I currently don't aspire to make a living as a farmer, having a small homestead with veggies and chickens is a goal I hope to achieve in the near future. When I saw an opportunity to experience another farm, while during my thru-hike, I jumped on it.

When I arrived at the farm, the apprentices & interns were just finishing up the evening chores of feeding all the animals and milking the cows. I happened to come on a special night - the local town fair was going on and they were all going, and dragged me along. While I probably would have preferred a quiet night reading in my tent, it was fascinating from a cultural perspective to go to the fair. We got back around 11 and I crashed in my tent.

I met everyone down at the barn at 6:30 to begin morning chores - feeding animals, fetching the cows for milking, milking the cows, and all sorts of tasks. They were so grateful for an extra pair of hands and I helped out wherever I could. That Sunday was also a special day - they were putting on a chicken slaughter workshop. I have never killed an animal before, but I felt that as someone who eats meat, I should be able to stomach witnessing and participating in the humane way to take a life from a living creature for our own consumption. It was a tough day, but one that I am very grateful to have experienced. I watched and learn as the living chickens became a food item. I will spare all the details here but overall, I learned a lot. It was a long day though. We didn't sit down for dinner until 9:00pm and afterwards I politely asked to have a shower - it had been about a week of hiking & sweating, and now I had chicken blood and dirt all over me. I stayed for breakfast in the morning and then got a ride back to the trail.


Once back on the trail, I got in touch with Gribley who was now ahead of me in Great Barrington. I was about four miles away and we decided to meet for lunch. That four miles was the swamppiest, buggiest stretch of trail I'd seen so far and was almost running to get away from the mosquitoes. This whole trip I had yet to hitch-hike by myself, but Great Barrington was about five miles away so I decided the time had come and I stuck out my thumb. Almost immediately a car stopped and the guy asked if I was a hiker. As it turned out, he was a new sports writer for the Great Barrington newspaper and his assignment that day was to find a hiker and interview him or her about hiking the AT. He asked if he could take me to lunch and interview him. I laughed at the craziness of the situation and said yes, but that I was meeting another hiker in town for lunch, and he agreed to interview us both. I met Gribley in town and he hopped in the car and we had lunch at the local Co-Op and talked to the writer about our experiences on the trail. He took our picture, thanked us, and dropped us off at the laundromat - I was pretty eager to wash the chicken blood off my clothes!

Gribley and I caught up on the two weeks since we'd seen each other while my clothes were washing, and walked over to the nearby store to pick up groceries for the upcoming week. We hiked a few miles out of town up to Tom Leonard Shelter and were delighted to see Pace & Hungus camping there. We hadn't seen them since we said goodbye in New Jersey and it was great to all be together again.

We had big plans the next day to do 20 miles to Upper Goose Pond Cabin, but took a really long lunch break, and then a late afternoon snack by a big stream that turned into dinner that turned into our campsite for the night. We built a small campfire and continued to swap stories. We agreed to get up really early the next morning to make it to the lake early in the day. It was well worth it - the weather was great and we arrived around noon. There were canoes we could borrow and so we spent a good bit of time paddling around. When we got back to the cabin, a lot of our friends had arrived - Pants on Fire, Tatertot, Towelie, and Cheesewater - so exciting to see everyone! We all caught up and spent some relaxing time time down on the dock by the lake.

The next morning, the caretaker cooked blueberry pancakes for everyone and made lots of coffee. We headed out toward Dalton. I originally wanted to skip Dalton, but I'd scratched my eye somehow and it was getting worse each day so I thought I should see a doctor. We stopped at the "Cookie Lady" - a small blueberry farm that gives out cookies to hikers. It was a charming little house and Gribley and I sat and made phone calls. I tried to figure out an eye appt, and also called Saloman about getting my hiking shoes replaced. They are such a great company and agreed to send me a new (free!) pair to Hanover, NH.

We hiked on into Dalton and stayed at a cheap motel with Pace & Hungus. Pants, Tater, Cheesewater & Towelie all had the room next door. We bought some good beers and ordered pizza and had a really fun night. The next morning everyone got laundry started and Gribley & I made some "beermosas" - Blue Moon & Orange Juice, surprisingly delicious!
Cheesewater wearing his raincoat as pants while doing laundry
We all were slightly hungover and as soon as one person suggested taking a bus to a nearby town to see Batman, we all were in.  There are more stories to come... need to sign off now.  Stay tuned.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Info about the 75th Anniversary of the AT

For those of you following Macon... Daystar, you may be interested in some background information on the AT.  Here's an article we found at

No news to report from our happy hiker, which means no cell service.  We think it's this week that she begins hiking the White Mountains.  Thankfully all the winter gear that we'd mailed to the Mountain Goat Outfitters reached her, and she's sent her lighter weight things back home to Chattanooga.  We'll post as we hear more.   Stay tuned. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012


NY/CT border!
For starters, CT was a really lovely stretch of trail. It's 51.6 miles long and really pretty - one of my favorite states on the AT.

Ten Mile River
I had started from Morgan Stewart Shelter in New York that morning, saw Dover Oak, and hiked 20 miles to Ten Mile River Campsite. It was a gorgeous walk that day - not as hot as it had been, and it felt good to be covering ground again. The campsite was really nice, I love camping next to moving water.

Sign by Ten Mile River campsite
I woke up the next morning and headed into Kent. My plan was to just grab a bite & resupply, but I caught up with the Honeymoon Hikers & Spirit. They were camping at the local Episcopal church and said I could leave my packs there and join them for lunch. They also offered to let me throw my laundry in with theirs, so I laughed and decided to say yes to everything! We started the wash and then had a really great lunch - I had a grilled chicken gyro, so delicious. There were big warnings of severe lightning storms for the entire state. I knew that St. Johns Ledges was just outside of Kent - a super steep rocky descent, and I really wasn't liking the idea of hiking that alone in a bad storm. I opted to stay the night at the church and spent the afternoon writing some emails and catching up on the blog at the local library, really relaxing. Pants & Tater arrived later that evening and we all shared some ice cream.

The next morning, I got up early and headed out. Pants & Tater stayed to do all their town errands (laundry, resupply, etc). I did about 19 miles to Sharon Mountain Campsite - my second night on the trail camping totally alone. My guidebook listed a farm up ahead that offered a work for stay. I figured that if I put in some big mile days, I could take a zero and check out the farm, and then give my buds some time to catch up to me. Pants & Tater were a half day behind, and Gribley had just gotten back on the trail from his trip to Ohio for a wedding & family reunion. I'd had a nice time hiking on my own, but was excited about the four of us being back together again.

When I woke up at Sharon Mtn Campsite, it was POURING rain. I've been pretty lucky this trip with the rain but it's never fun to pack up my tent and load my pack in the rain. I hiked out and was bummed to realize there was no shelter along the way. I saw a small trail head with an awning for a notebook/register and crawled underneath to get out of the rain. I was pretty pathetic looking, haha and hoped no hikers were close behind - they surely would have laughed at me! I bundled up and cooked some hot pasta to warm up. I'd been hiking in a tee shirt (which was soaked) and decided to put on my dry long sleeve wool shirt, and also my rain coat. Normally I don't like hiking in my rain coat because it just gets drenched and soggy and you sweat under it so its just all kinds of uncomfortable. However, it was getting chilly and there were no signs of the rain stopping, so I was happy with the outfit change. Eventually, the rain let up and I stopped to enjoy a view and read & send some text messages to my hiker friends, and also start to iron out my plans for the farm.

Billy's View after the rains
I pushed on to Riga Shelter - the only shelter in CT with views. It was really pretty the evening when I arrived, and in the morning I was overlooking the clouds, so gorgeous! 

Riga Shelter - view in the morning
Luckily, that Saturday morning was the start to a really gorgeous day and one of my favorites on the trail so far. I ended the day on (another) Bear Mountain, before crossing the border into Massachusetts.
On Bear Mtn, CT

More pics from CT:

AT sign in a field
Oh deer!

Moving into the New England pine forests

Slug blaze

New York, part 2

Leaving Bear Mountain & the zoo, we hiked over the bridge across the Hudson River and started climbing up Anthony's Nose. 
Crossing the Hudson
Pants & I sat down to have a late lunch and a family of day hikers stopped to talk. They asked what our favorite part of the trail was and I answered that it was moments like that - having the freedom & self-sufficiency to hike this great trail with friends and be able to just stop wherever and cook lunch. I love those moments. We hiked on and stopped by Graymoor Spiritual Life Center/Franciscan Way. I don't know too much about it except that they have a baseball field, a pavilion, a cold shower and that hikers are welcome to stay there. When we arrived, a group of Ecuadorian Catholics from NYC were finishing up dinner. A small chapel was set up and a big PA system and we figured they had been there all day that Saturday and were wrapping up. A trail angel brought us some watermelon and we all enjoyed some slices.
Watermelon party at Graymoor

Yummy watermelon!!
Around 9pm, as I was getting ready to go to sleep, I saw about 20 big Suburbans pull up and lots of families pour out of the cars. I debated packing up to leave, but figured whatever was going on would end by 11 or 12 that night. I had no idea that an all night worship service was about to begin. Luckily, I had a pair of ear plugs that help muffle some of the noise, but literally, from dusk until dawn (about 5:30am), I could hear loud preaching in Spanish over the huge PA system. Needless to say, all the hikers were exhausted and pretty cranky in the morning.

Dawn at Graymoor
We packed up and headed about 8 miles to a road. UT had gotten off the trail to see some family in CT and met us the road with Gatorades and offered to slack pack us the last 12 miles of the day. We were shooting for a big 20 mile day to make it to RPH shelter where a Hiker Feed had been advertised. (Trail Magic is usually a cooler with cold drinks & snacks. On rare occasions we come across a Hiker Feed, which is more like a big all you can eat BBQ set up for hikers and they are advertised a few days in advance so hikers can plan around them). We'd seen signs for the Hiker Feed at RPH for Sunday night and really wanted to make it. Having a slack pack made it much easier for us to complete the 20 miles.
We set out with some snacks & water in the intense heat. It was a blessing when the skies opened and a tremendous rainstorm burst over our heads. It was so refreshing & thrilling to run down the trail in the rain. All the water sources had been dry in those parts, so it was bizarre to see the trail turn into an ankle-deep rushing stream. Every step was under water, but raced down the trail. We got up to an exposed ridge line and lighting & thunder were crashing all around us. I made the executive decision for the group that we would wait in the rain before crossing a ridge amidst the lightning. I didn't want to seem wimpy, but at the same time, I realized the severity and real danger of lightning. We waited about 10 minutes until we could count a few Mississippi's between lightning strikes & thunder booms before we sprinted across a huge rock with a big American flag painted on it. I wish I'd taken a picture, but we were just trying to get to back into the trees as quickly as possible. We showed up at the shelter earlier than expected, totally soaked, but were so grateful for the burgers & hot dogs cooked by trail maintenance guys. UT met us there with our packs & dry clothes, and also a big suitcase of cold beers - a perfect end to the day. Unfortunately, the storm continued all night and the rain was so loud, we had another sleepless night.

Monday morning, totally exhausted, we hiked down to the home of a nice woman that we'd met the night before at the Hiker Feed. With all our clothes still soaking and only 3 miles to go, Pants & I decided to have a "Hike in Your PJ's Day" and set out in our sleeping tee shirts & long johns. We hiked over to Amy's house - her husband did a thru-hike a few years back and they live near the RPH shelter and like to help out hikers. They offered to let us come by the house in the morning to shower, do laundry, and have breakfast. Moments like this are just so wonderful. I can't express how nice it is to be in a home.
Amy, Ella, & Claire - trail angels!
After a leisurely morning and lots of Belgium waffles, we felt clean, full, and had warm, dry clothes to put on - we felt so much better but still really tired. We trudged along the trail and I found Pants napping in a tree.
Naptime on the AT
We ended up only going 8 miles to Morgan Stewart shelter and decided to call it an early day and go to bed & get rested. That ended up being a smart move - I woke up the next morning, feeling totally rested and ready to get serious about hiking again. My trip to NYC kind of threw me off of my thru-hiker groove and after that great night sleep, I finally felt motivated to pack away some big miles again. I woke up early with the sun and told Pants & Tater that I was headed out and aiming to do a big 20 mile day that day. They were just waking up in their tents and hollered that they'd see me up the way.

I was also starting to think that it may be good for me to hike on my own for a bit. For most of my hike I've been with a group and I really, really love the people I've been hiking with. However, I was craving some quiet, alone time on the trail. I wanted to reconnect with myself and remember the reasons I personally had decided to take on this big adventure. I also had started to think about my life in a bigger post-trail picture and wanted some time to myself to brainstorm & write about that.

I set out hiking and had a great day. A big highlight that day was seeing the Dover Oak - the largest tree on the AT and absolutely stunning.

Dover Oak
Shortly after, I hit the CT border. Stay tuned for the CT adventures.
Also - thanks so much for the sweet, encouraging comments from the last post. I love y'all!!

xo Daystar

Friday, August 10, 2012

New York

Sorry this is so outdated but I'd like to catch up on the past few weeks/states. Leaving NYC was quite a whirlwind. Pants' uncle (we named him UT for Uncle Tom) flew out from Illinois to hike for a few days and met us at the bus station in NYC. After about an hour ride back to Greenwood Lake, NY, we hiked back up the mile long side trail that reconnected us to the AT. I was so utterly exhausted, I found a small stealth spot and decided to make it an early night. It was the first time I've camped totally alone. I'd been a little nervous about it earlier in the trip but at this point was totally ready. I really enjoyed a quiet night to myself and woke up feeling so rested and refreshed.

Pants diving in the Island Pond Outlet

Pants cowboy camping
I started hiking to catch up with my crew (side note - Gribley took a train from NYC to Ohio for a big family reunion and wedding with plans to catch up with us when he returned to the trail). With only a few miles behind me that morning, I was easily distracted by Bellvale Creamery, a local icecream shop run by a multiple generational dairy farm. I met some other hikes there and had a big scoop of white chocolate raspberry, the best ice cream I've had on the trail. The rest of the day as I recall was hot & humid but with little water around. We were so grateful for trail angels in NY, as they would leave many gallons of water wherever the trail crossed a road. Anyway, I hiked up Buchanan Mountain and found Pants & UT and some whiskey. They were planning on cowboy camping (where you put your sleeping bag right on the ground - no tent) on some mossy patches up on the rocks. Despite wanting to put in more miles and catch up with Tater, I decided to call it a day and hang out with the boys. The next morning we got up and headed out in the heat. Our whole time in NY was REALLY hot - 90+ degree weather with no escape. Sure, I'm a south Georgia girl who can take the heat. I played soccer in 100 degree weather. During my NYC days I never had AC in my apartment. I can handle the heat, but being out in the heat, hiking all day long with no escape was overwhelmingly exhausting. It was no question then, when I saw Tater by Island Pond Outlet that I decided to stop and swim and cool off. We decided to stay and camp there and enjoy the breeze off the lake. It was such a wonderful night. Pants and UT caught up and we all swam and had a relaxing evening.

The Lemon Squeeze

Climbing out of the Lemon Squeeze

Friday morning we left camp and hiked through the Lemon Squeeze, a crazy rock climb. We squeeze up, over, through, and around crazy rock formations. I love these parts of the trail! After that we headed to Arden Valley road. There is a small beach there and also soda machines and bathrooms - real luxuries for thru-hikers. Gribley was a few days ahead still - he was taking a train from Peekskill. I called him to ask about the water supply ahead of us. While we were talking I mentioned that I had lost a pair of my good Darn Tuff brand hiking socks and that my mom was going to mail me a new pair. The Honeymoon Hikers overheard and presented me with my lost socks! Haha I love when this sort of thing happens on the trail! 

Gribley's scavenger hunt

That evening we were shooting to camp on Bear Mountain but had received a scavenger hunt text from Gribley instructing us to follow a paved road to a group of three trees with boulder rocks in front. Behind them and under a small rock we would find further instructions. He had figured out a secret slack pack for us. If we left our packs on the trail, we could climb up and back down Bear Mtn and then retrieve our packs at the bottom. We set up our tents by the road and camped and then hiked up Bear Mtn in the morning. There was a cool tower at the top and we enjoyed cokes from the soda machine.

Note from Gibley
After we retrieved our packs, we hiked down to the Bear Mtn touristy area - lakes and crowds and the zoo, not our favorite section of trail but if it has a white blaze, we follow it. The zoo is interesting because it is technically the lowest point of the trail, at 124 feet. Ironically it is also in a way, the lowest figurative point on the trail. We've seen so much wildlife in their natural state, it was heartbreaking to see animals in cages. At the same time though, the zoo claims to have rescued hurt animals and will re-release back to the wild whenever possible.

At the top of Bear Mountain
I'm going to wrap this up and finish the rest of NY in the next post. Happy trails readers! Feeling much better than my last post :)