Monday, 22 October 2012

Tues 20 Oct.
Hello from London town everyone!
Well I made it over Mt Moosilauke and into Lincoln. It was a great way to end my long walk up from Springer Mountain in Georgia. I did not make it through the White Mountains, but with above treeline altitude, snow and wind like a scythe, I did get a good taste of them on the first of these big boys. Glad to be finished off now though, because while hiking in these mountains in temperatures at times below zero (within reason and as long as one can do it relatively safely) is do-able and fun, camping out is not.

The morning after my last missive the weather was supposed to be clear and sunny - sort of - but I woke up with rain hosing down and blustery winds. Great! However, by 9am the rain and wind had stopped and so I headed out, wanting to be in Lincoln by that night. Sunny but cloudy, but while I was still heading up the road I got a light sprinkling of granular snow. There were plenty of cold clouds around so I wasn't too surprised, and I reasoned that a little snow would be fine to push through and if the weather got seriously crazy I would head back down and try again next day. The southern ascent of Moosilauke is relatively easy by now: a steep slope, which is very long but also very constant like a very long and steep ramp. As I got higher I had a few more dustings of snow until about 2 thirds of the way up, I saw that there was a light covering of snow on the forest around me. This got thicker and deeper the higher I went, until by the time I was right up in the evergreen forest I was ascending through a completely white world. I saw footprints on the snow and realised that there were 2 people ahead of me, which was reassuring. It's good to have company up there on a day like that. I caught up with them in the upper forest and it turned out to be a French Canadian father and son whom I had met 3 days before at the Moose Mountain shelter (on Moose Mountain's South Peak). We decided to walk over together and very soon we found ourselves going over Moosilauke's lower height. And got our first taste of that summit wind. It was already cold but that wind definitely put a whole new dimension to things. We got over the rise and down into the saddle between it and the true summit. By now we were in the krumhotz: a region of stunted conifer trees of more or less uniform height not more than about 2m and kept that way by the altitude, the cold and the wind. We were now walking up a lane between the trees and stopped to put on our bits and pieces of cold weather kit: gloves, face mask and double layer warm beanie for me. And boy did we need them. When we got out of the krumholtz and were now above the treeline and in the open, that wind was very strong and VERY cold. There was only very small, low plants, rocks and gravel up there with little snow except where it had drifted in hollows or built up against windward surfaces. A very cold but starkly beautiful, elemental place and I'm very glad I got to experience it. Believe it or not there were people up there: day hikers who arrived just after us and who were less well equipped but relatively ok as long as they were careful (and the weather didn't get bad). By this time the water was freezing in people's drinking tubes.

Around us we had an uninterrupted 360 degree view and could see all kinds of weather in a vast panorama around us. Above us and the mountain top however, was a very black and cold disk of cloud. We pushed on, got back into the trees (and out of the wind) and began heading down.
The 2 French Canadians stopped at the Beaver Brook shelter where they planned to spend the night. I was keen to press on, because of the time, and so didn't stop for lunch but ate snack bars to keep things going. I'm glad I did because the northern slope of Moosilauke is very steep and rocky. It is very challenging at the best of times, especially going down, but with snow and wet it is quite dangerous and I needed to take my time to be safe. Despite this, this is also a very beautiful place with the trail running next to a cascade for most of the way down.

And then I was down; and at the trailhead on route 112; and my 1794.8 mile walk was over. Perhaps one day I'll get to finish it and get to Maine and Mt Katadin. Still, it has been a life changing journey - challenges, but a whole lot of fun too. And a very great deal more. And It's addictive. I wonder about just how I'm going to adjust back to life in a place like London.

I spent the next 2 days in Lincoln at Chet's place (Chet is a great guy, an ex hiker who has an informal hostel in his garage) and met up with some old friends, some going south, and some I had caught up with. Ate, washed, washed clothes, booked bus ticket to Logan airport in Boston and finally, caught the 7:25 bus to Boston. It all went quickly and uneventfully (this is good) from there, though the BA flight was really cattle-class: cramped and under-changed, smelling-of-fart air. At least in the days of smoking they couldn't skimp on changing the air and changed it as often as they are meant to.

And so back to London.
But is REALLY great to see my brother and Zuz and my nieces again.
12 October 2012

Hi Everyone! Well, I have 1 more day of hiking. I am in the tiny town of Glencliff, New Hampshire. Tomorrow I plan to hike over Mount Moosilauke, first of the really big mountains in the White range. At the top I'll be above the treeline and it should be a clear day so the view will be spectacular. Clear weather but cold!
It has been getting colder and colder and it is definitely time for me to be finishing off. Yesterday it rained and misted something fierce, but that kind of weather is definitely more fun than this bitter cold when it's clear, and I love walking in it. The still warm(er) south wind brings the rain and walking and camping is damper but warm enough to be quite ok.
Tomorrow night is supposed to get down to 22-29 F, which is way below 0 degrees celcius (!). This is why I plan to be safe, warm and snug in Lincoln NH, tomorrow night, where this long journey up the AT will end.
Today was the first day I wore my jacket all day, even going up Cube mountain. Eish! It is getting COLD! And only going to get worse.
I plan to catch the bus from Lincoln on Monday as it makes a clear, 3 + hour run direct to Logan airport in Boston. Sat and Sun I'll spend washing clothes, organising equipment buying ticket etc, and resting and eating of course - very important, that. Oh yes: I saw another porcupine as I was coming down off Mt Mist this evening. Quite a big one, right on the train, and it didn't seem to know I was there until I was right on it. It headed for a tree and presented it's back end to me, more or less, and then had a squint at me. I think their eyesight can't be all that good. I wished him / it good evening and then passed on by. I didn't linger as the light was going by then.
I am glad I am able to spend the night in this actually quite amazing hostel. Warm instead of cold is always good but there is also a laundry, tv for watching any of a huge DVD collection, internet and beds. No hot shower though as it is broken (sniff). Ah well: the hardships of the trail eh? At least I don't smell as bad as I did that one time in Pennsylvania when I went for 8 days without a wash and my clothes for 9 days. : )

Keep well everyone, see you soon.
6 October 2012

Hi everyone! Well I made it out of the vortex of Rutland and am now in Hanover, New Hampshire. My stay in Rutland was fun and the ankle has come right. I had no such trouble with my old boots, hmmm.

The weather has been wet but warm (er), in fact very pleasant to walk in despite being wet. The autumn colours never cease to amaze me. The leaves are a spectacular display though the recent rain has knocked a lot of them off. This only means however, that there is now a thick and bright blanket over the ground, like a multicoloured impressionist painting done with orange, yellow and red paint splotches against a dark (soil) background.

My time here is coming to a close! I realistically only have about 6-7 days of hiking left. I have been taking it easy the last week or so and enjoying the landscape and towns I have been through. It is easy stages now although the first of the mountains in the White range are coming up. I won't get through the Whites to Maine, but I hope to go over some of the more southern mountains on the trail. High, and cold at this time of year. I have bought a thermal reflective overbag to make my sleeping bag warmer as it just wasn't cutting it on some of the colder nights. Lower 30s = around 0 celcius or just above and I have woken up shivering in the early hours a few times. The new overbag should do the trick though. I have also invested in a 100% merino wool underwear longsleave shirt so hopefully all should be warm and toasty!

I'm sad to be so close to ending my sojourn here. I could keep walking if I had the time and the increasing cold wasn't a factor - I have my trail legs well and truly now. At the same time, I'm happy that the goals and hopes that I had when I started seem to have been realised or have happened. I'm changed and the other day realised that those parts of me which seemed to have died are alive again. I'm also keen to get back to family and friends again.
Well looks like it's time to go again.
Keep well all!
29 September 2012
Hello! Another quick update: I am in Rutland Vermont today staying in a great hostel run by an interesting Christian sect called the 12 Tribes. I decided to come down last night as my right ankle was giving jip and it needs a rest. I spent the night of 27th in a cosy little shelter cabin on my own and it was VERY cold but not as cold as i would have been if I had stayed at the bigger stone shelter higher up, which had no windows and cold, damp stone walls and floor as well as a leaking roof I have since learned. Yesterday morning was raining and windy so I decided to stay put in the warm and dry and stay off my ankle. In the early afternoon the rain had stopped and since I now no longer had enough food to make it to Hanover, New Hampshire - my original plan was to get from Manchester    Center, Vermont to Hanover in 6 days and I was carrying just enough food to do this - I came down to town. This also gave me a chance to test the ankle on the 3 miles down to the road, and yes, it was definitely hurt.

I spent 2 days and 3 nights in Rutland and the ankle was fine after that. It was also a chance to re-supply, eat     a huge amount at the Chinese all you can eat buffet (I love these), rest and shoot the breeze with folks at the hostel, one of whom was/is a train hobo who has been traveling around the country by jumping on and off trains for 7 years. Interesting people I meet.
18 September 2012

Hello everyone!
I have now made it to Dalton in Massachusetts. I am about a day's walk from the Vermont state line with Mount Greylock right in front of me. I did a 10.5 mile walk yesterday "slackpacking" (you leave your full pack and kit with someone - in this case Tom Levardi in whose house I have stayed while in Dalton - and walk with only a light pack containing things for the day's walk). Wh
at a difference to walk lightly along the trail for a change!

I last checked in in Vernon NJ, but have now walked through New York State, Connecticut and most of Massachusetts.
I now have new boots! My old ones made it as far as Pawling NY, just south of Connecticut, where they finally died after walking 36 miles in one go, through the night and up to 7:45 next day. They made it 1440 miles before the soles finally shredded and fell apart. RIP torture-boxes.
I decided to stay put today as the unseasonable cold weather has been followed by heavy rain and strong winds today. Not a good day to try walking over Mount Greylock. So I have stayed warm and dry and managed to get to the library in Dalton.
I have not been rushing to get to Mnt Katadin as time is now probably too short, it was never a main goal (I'm not hell-bent on "finishing at Katadin"), and I want to enjoy this time and chew the fat - which was the point of this all along anyway.
I spent Fri and Sat at a beautiful place called Upper Goose Pond, in the cabin run by the Appalachian Mountain Club - with caretaker and pancakes and coffee for breakfast! - because it is so beautiful and I wanted to take the time to explore and enjoy it and rest. I swam in the lake, took a canoe and paddled round the lake, to the island, through the channel to the adjoining bigger lake and back, took numerous photos, slept and read. Just what the dactor ordered.

New York was a challenge, with very rough country, unpleasant heat, horrible humidity (up to 100% at times) and little water as they have been having a drought. Happily I / we were able to fill up from taps at various buisnesses and state parks, and from jugs of water left at certain places by "trail angels".
One more bear spotted, which brings my total so far to 23. : )

I spent a day in Salisbury, Conn., "zeroing" in order to rest my ankle which my new boot had been pressing and hurting. FYI: a teahouse there called "Chaiwalla's" serves pots of the best (real) chai I have yet tasted. Yum yum! 2 days later I said goodby to my new chum Cameron in Great Barrington, as he had colitis and had been really suffering. I told him we had to get him checked out and went to the hospital in GB. He will be off trail for a few days but hopefully I'll meet up with him again before too long.

Well, I am about to be chucked off this pc, so best regards to all.
30 August 2012

Hi Everyone, I'm in Vernon, Nu Joizy (New Jersey)! I made it through Pennsylvania and survived the rocks - though I reckon my boots did not. Sooo glad to be out of the rocks - though I did like PA a lot. Tomorrow I'll be crossing into New York State as it's only a few miles away.
Only saw one bear in PA: at Delaware Water Gap (another town I really liked) as I was eating my supper outside a shop.
It walked up behind me in the street - I didn't realise it was there until the people at the next table (looking over my shoulder) started exclaiming : "Is that a bear? It's a bear! It's a bear!" etc. and started grabbing children and running inside. I looked round and there was the cheeky bruin walking towards me across the road not 10 -15m away.Happily, he took a left and headed for the dumpster at the end of the parking lot. I finished up supper and then got some great pics of his ass waving in the air as he raided the dumpster. Hmmm, perhaps a bear not too long for this world or at least that neighbourhood.
Next day after church (yes, I went to the Church of the Mountain hostel and attended the morning service upstairs next morning) I crossed the Delaware River into NJ. Still with the rocks! Only now hills as well! But then yesterday I came down off the hill at a place called High Point and seem to have left those rocks behind. Oh the rejoicing! Walked a short 13 mile day today to Vernon and had a great supper hosted by the St Thomas Episcopal church's neighbours, the Presbetarian Methodist Church (right next door), enjoyed some great worship at their service afterwards, then did some re-supplying at the grocery store. Ice-cream, and then bed. Oh what it is to suffer on the trail! : )
Only 2 days of anti-biotics to go - at last! No more hassle and no more sunburning. You are supposed to avoid exposure to direct sunlight while on these (and yes, you really DO burn in just a little sunshine) , yeah, like that's going to happen the trail. Got bitten by some kind of e-type mosquitoes just before and in Delaware Water Gap. Nasty! A whole lot of bites on my arms and face that formed big welts which have lasted for days and are still leaking lymph fluid. Greeeat. Still, they are healing up now so it's all good. Heh Heh!

Stunned by the great news of engagements and weddings from the home-front (Memo and Vicky, Toni and Dana)! Great stuff!

Missing you all. Love.
9 August 2012
Thanks everyone! I made it out of Harper's Ferry, +- 7 miles to the next shelter. Started at 5pm(eek!) as I had a late lunch with a friend called "Ridiculous" and, completely unplanned (by me), spent a bit of quality time just sharing with him about some of the things The Lord has done for me. I also was able to pray for healing of some injuries he had. Good times, and I hope I see him again. I don't exactly know how, but I reached the shelter at about 7:35-40pm! Really nice shelter. Today I have walked 25 miles and some change, and I'm somewhat nackered. The shelter I was aiming for has no water - I met 2 guys coming the other way - and so I am spending the night - and money(!) - at a hostel just 0.3 miles down the road. Whole place to myself and now I'm going to organise some food to be delivered. Yum!

7 August 2012

Hey Everyone!
I'm in Harper's Ferry at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy! Made it to the (psychological) half way point. I'm going to have to move it to make it to Maine in time, but it's do-able. Not stopping here tonight - too expensive and I want to get on - but now down to the post office, lunch and then onwards and out. Maryland and Pennsylvania are ahead.
2 August 2012
 I'm in Leesburg at present, staying with Guy and Tracey de Blank. This weekend we're off to Harrisonburg for a family camp/retreat which I felt The Lord wanted me to go to. On Sunday afternoon or Mon. morning I'll be back on the trail and getting to Harper's Ferry either Mon or Tues depending.
6 July 2012
Hi Everyone! This is just a quick note to all to reassure you that I am alive and well and survived the Derecho storm on Friday 29 June. We were all caught and there is widespread and bad damage from Georgia to Pennsylvania. I was caught in open woodland on a ridge just as it was getting dark and the storm came up without warning. Hurricane force winds and trees breaking and falling all around. There was nowhere to take cover so I just had to run for my life and dodge falling trees and limbs while trying to get down the trail and off the ridge, down to the shelter. A tree actually fell on me and knocked me down. A foot further on and I might be dead or badly injured. But I'm alive and uninjured (praise God!) and managed to get all my bits and pieces back and or repaired the next morning. A very close shave. But I have my life, I'm uninjured and God is GOOD! Just thought I'd check in and let you know. I'm in Daleville/Troutville VA and heading out now. Love to all.