Monday, August 26, 2013

8/25: Stealth site, 1813.0

There's really no other way to say it: New Hampshire is my new favorite state of the whole trail, and I'm less than a 100 miles into it with all the best stuff left to go! That's just how amazing the past couple of days have been. The weather has been spectacular and the views simply brilliant. This is one absolutely gorgeous state. Anyways, let me tell y'all a story, ok? The problem is that I've got so much I want to share, it's hard sometimes to decide what to include and what to omit. And let me just say this: these mountains are tough. I mean real tough. I'm going straight up these things and straight back down too. This is definitely the hardest stuff any of us have seen yet, and word is it only gets harder from here. We're climbing a 1,000 feet a mile, sometimes steeper, for 3 or 4 thousand feet. It's tough work, no doubt about that, but man if it isn't worth it when you get to the top! It sounds so cliché to say that too because I've been hearing that phrase for weeks and weeks. Every time I would pass a southbound thru hiker I'd ask about New Hampshire and Maine, and every single one of them would almost verbatim say the same thing: "Dude," they would say, as they raised their eyebrows and gave me a smirk, "they're tough...but they're worth it." The key to climbing these monsters is to not look at the elevation profile and to climb the mountain with the mindset that the mountain will never end. That way, when you reach a false summit and round the corner just to see another 1,000 feet you have to [rock]climb, you aren't so disappointed (read heartbroken). And we're borderline rock climbing this stuff too. I put my trekking pole away for the climb today; it became more of a hindrance than anything on this type of terrain. Oh yeah I was suppose to be telling a story wasn't I? Let's get to that!

So the usual gang and I come off Mt. Moosilauke, which is our first official White Mountain, and head in to Lincoln, NH. We need to resupply at the grocery store, but we really want to go into Lincoln so that we can stay at a very famous thru-hiker hostel called Chet's Place. Chet is a really awesome guy with a really sad story. Back maybe 10 years ago, Chet was involved in a horrible campstove accident. An avid hiker, his single burner canister stove, much like the type of stove nearly every thru hiker uses on trail today, blew up while he was using it and burned 45% of his body. As if this weren't bad enough, during the explosion Chet inhaled some of the flame, completely burning his lungs. The injuries Chet suffered that day should have killed him, and he spent the majority of the next year in a drug induced coma. But Chet pulled through, and the local newspaper named him the "miracle man". His injured lungs now prevent him from walking very far so he gets around mostly by wheelchair. Chet always had a dream of thruhiking the Appalachian Trail. Sadly that dream can never be fulfilled. However, since Chet cannot hike the AT, he decided to bring the AT to him by opening up a donation based hiker hostel right out of his house in Lincoln. The hostel has become a hiker haven and is a must stop for any doing the trail. Thru-hikers only though. Sorry, Chet's rules, not mine :).

While we are at the hostel we caught wind of an awesome swimming hole called Franconia Falls that locals frequent a few miles away from the AT. After a little deliberating with the group, we spontaneously decide to take a zero day and go check this place out. You've probably picked up on this, but I love spontaneous plans! And what an amazing plan this one turned out to be! Nearly all the thru hikers at the hostel decide to enjoy the gorgeous weather by coming along too! We went to the grocery store and got a ton of picnic food including an entire rotisserie chicken and massive loaves of bread and set out on our adventure. Franconia Falls was picturesque and included wade pools, cliff jumps, and even natural rock slides! We had a ball sliding and jumping in the water, and then going to relax and picnic on the warm, sunbaked rocks. One of the rock slides had an awesome 6 foot drop off at the end, so it shot you straight into the air and down into a deep pool below. We took tons of pictures and videos of everyone sliding and cliff jumping too, and I'm proud to say that everyone in my group jumped off the cliff (even though Sriracha's cliff jump video is well over 5 minutes of her standing on the edge screaming funny!).

As you can tell, I'm having the time of my life out here. This truly is the adventure of a lifetime. Hope everyone is doing well back home!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

8/15-8/16: Killington, VT, 1701

What's up everyone! I've been so busy doing crazy things lately that I haven't had any time to document any of it! I suppose I will tell you all a story from one of the more fun and interesting nights on the trail.

On the 15th of August, Spider, Sriracha, Foolhardy, Ten Year, and I pull a 23 mile day in order to get to Killington on time for Ten Year to get back to work. Killington marked the end of his 9th and second to last planned section hike of the AT; he plans to summit Katahdin next summer! It was a lot of fun having Ten Year hike with us for a few weeks and I think he enjoyed himself as well, hanging out with our tight knit group in the mountains of Vermont. Once in Killington he treated all of us to a free night at the Mountain Meadows Inn. Mountain Meadows is a very nice wedding resort located right on the Appalachian Trail. In fact, the trail passes right through the backyard! Believe it or not, the Inn is also located on beautiful Kent Pond, and the wedding ceremony is held right on the water. It's a truly beautiful place. Lucky for us, the owner of the resort is extremely hiker friendly, and during the week when weddings aren't going on he allows us hiker trash to invade his lovely facilities and even feed us dinner! The Inn was complete with a HOT TUB, SAUNA, and even a theatre room with a whole library of old VHS movies. After we lounged around the hot tub and talked about how awesome are lives are, we grabbed a round of Long Trail Ales at the bar and settled down to watch Caddyshack! Man I forgot just how funny that movie was. It was the well deserved perfect ending to a very tough 23 mile day. Now the next day is where things get really interesting.....

On the 16th we decided to give ourselves a day of rest and take a zero day. We had heard rumors of an awesome (and extremely interesting) hostel/restaurant in the neighboring town of Rutland, VT. The restaurant/hostel is called the Yellow Deli, and the reason it is interesting is because it is run by a religious "community" called the Twelve Tribes of Vermont. While I haven't done the leg work to get an idea of their belief system, they were extremely nice, very accommodating folks that really went out of their way to ensure that our stay at the Yellow Deli was one of the most memorable experiences on trail. The Deli and hostel was decorated extremely uniquely. Huge murals could be found on every wall displaying long quotes surrounded by tons of tie-dye and color. The tables and chairs were very rustic and inviting and reminded me of an old hunting lodge. The contrast of the hippie themed art and the wood/leather furniture created an interesting contrast that one could not help but notice from the moment you walk through door. The members of the community were dressed very plain and modestly, with the women wearing skirts of dresses down to their ankles. To our delight, on Friday nights the community celebrates the Sabbath which occurs on Saturday, so there was no charge for anything! Around 6 pm the group invited all the thru hikers to join in on the festivities. As we walked in their was a community member at the door handing out glasses of Green Tea for everyone, that eerily reminded us of Kool-Aid....but we drank it anyway - and it was delicious. They then began playing old Israeli folk songs and taught us a few traditional Israeli folk dances that were pretty fun to do and hilarious to watch. After that night I became fully aware that hikers do not make good dancers! Poor Foolhardy....saying he has two left feet would be putting it mildy. At least he was able to make it off the dance floor without injuring himself or others. Once the dancing concluded, they put on a massive feast for us all, including locally grown squash and zucchini straight from their garden, and blue fish from Alaska, all over a bed of rice. And they kept bringing you food until you literally had to insist that you were full! However cultish these guys may be, they can certainly cook some food! All the food at the Yellow Deli was some of the best food I've had on trail. Just delicious! Once dinner they of course served us dessert, and once I went back to the bunkroom I found a gift basket awaiting me on my bed! These people were so incredibly nice to thru hikers it was insane and a bit overwhelming. Meeting the Yellow Deli people was a very interesting experience, and while I don't claim to fully understand their religious practices or way of life, they were extremely nice and accommodating to me and my fellow thru hikers. But don't worry everyone, no cults for m :) (although they have sucked a few thru hikers in over the years). I just not sure a commune is really my thing. Nor are Hebrew names. Or skirts that go down to the floor.

That just about does it for me! I got to get out of Hanover! Towns are such vortexs, they really will suck you in! Also, Hanover is right on the north side of the New Hampshire border! I start climbing the epically challenging and beautiful white mountains within the week! I'll be sure to take lots of pictures so you guys can join in on the adventure!


p.s. I now have a Mohawk. A pink Mohawk. Spider and Foolhardy got one too. It's pretty awesome. :) lol

Saturday, August 17, 2013

8/12: Bromley Mountain, 1650.8

Greetings everyone! As I have hiked this trail, I have come to realize that the absolute best plans out here are the spontaneous ones. Spider, Sriracha, Fool Hardy, and Sriracha's dad, Ten Year, hiked into Manchester Center, VT, so that we could resupply and then knock out another 7 miles that afternoon. While in a local pizza place, a past thru hiker and native of Vermont, Johnny Thunder, informed us that there is an unmarked, unofficial shelter on top of Bromley Mountain 3 miles from town that the ski resort allows thru hikers to use. He went on to add that the view from Bromley is absolutely stunning and that we should definitely consider staying at the summit for the sunset and sunrise. Well my whole group jumped all over this idea! For one, that only meant we had to do 3 additional miles, not 7. For two, that night was also the peak of the month long meteor shower! We decide to make this special occasion into a big event and pack out a few special items that we don't typically pack out into the woods. Spider for instance packed out a huge container of yogurt, Oreo cookies, and strawberries so we could all have delicious parfaits. Sriracha and Ten Year packed out hotdogs, Fool Hardy packed out Blue Moon's seasonal beer, and I packed out the night's feature item: 5 liters of Franzia's finest White Zinfandel. As we are gathering our party supplies, more and more thru hikers began to take notice to our odd resupply items and start to ask questions. Once they find out what we have planned, they all begin to change their plans too until we have over 20 thru hikers coming up with us to the top of Bromley! Hiking 5 liters of wine up a 3 mile, 1000 foot climb was not a whole lot of fun. As a matter of fact, in down right sucked. But, once I made it to the top, I was welcomed as a hero and had several toasts in my name. I even got extra parfait and 2 hotdogs for dinner :)! The night turned out to be a smashing success. Once we reached the top everyone was giddy with excitement just thinking about our epic night to come. We played on both of the mountain's ski lifts and even got to go inside the cold weather ski lift's motor room that oddly resembled a space craft. We then all gathered around at the top of the mountain to watch a beautiful Vermont sunset. It was honest to God one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. Just gorgeous and truly special. Once the sun went down, we built a campfire right under the "No Fires" sign and cooked hotdogs, told trail stories, and sang songs along with Avacado's guitar.

Side Bar: That night I decided that thru hikers are illiterate. It's really the only explanation for our blatant and total disregard for signs displaying rules and regulations. If any of us can read, they sure don't tell anyone! Signs such as "No Fires", "No Camping", "No Loitering", "No Alcohol", and "Shoes and Shirts Required" are our absolute favorite to ignore, and quite frankly encourage whatever act they are attempting to deter. Besides, rules don't apply to thru hikers anyway. We pretty much do what we want. It's pretty great.

After our camp fire we all grabbed our sleeping bags and laid out on the summit for hours watching all the meteors shoot across the sky. Wow where there some amazing ones, with huge, long tails that glowed red and left huge streaks in the sky. The star gazing alone was worth it enough to lay out there for hours. And the wine made it all the more fun :). That day was one of the most amazing days I've had on trail to date. I'm so glad I got to share it all with my amazing friends. A sunset, meteor shower, impromptu hiker party, and a sunsrise?? All in one night? Talk about epic! Life is good out here my friends.


8/10: Story Spring Shelter, 1626.7

Just so everyone knows, I am typing this blog while lying flat on my back atop a picnic table in Vermont at roughly 2700 feet staring into one of the most beautiful night skies I have ever seen. A perfect natural clearing in the forest has allowed me to enjoy this crystal clear night and the spectacular stars. I am out here because I was told there was a meteor shower tonight, but I haven't seen any shooting stars yet. Still, I'm glad I received the tip. If I hadn't I never would have faced the cold, thereby missing this wonderful sky. Cold in August...I truly had to see it to believe it. My Georgian brain wouldn't allow itself to be wrapped around such a foreign concept. Anyways, now that you're sufficiently jealous I guess I can continue on with my post.

Ever since I returned to the trail from Boston I have been working my butt off trying to catch my friends Sriracha, Fool Hardy, and Spider. After hiking a few 20+ mile days in a row, I found out this morning that I had somehow overtaken them while they were in town! A northbound thru hiker I know informed me this morning that I had passed them and that they had camped at the last shelter 8 miles back! Once I found that out, I decided to hang out at my campsite until they arrived. My day was looking awesome. It had finally stopped raining, I was going to do a much deserved short day, and I could lay around camp till lunchtime! But wait, it gets better! As I was waiting for them to arrive, a lady that had camped beside the shelter last night came up and we started chatting. She introduced herself as Sky and explained that she was an AT section hiker that had just finished her last section by summiting Katadhin! She then went on to explain that she had met some awesome southbound thru hikers in New Hampshire, and that she had promised to give them trail magic once she was done with her section. Well today was that day, and she was surprising them with backcountry cooked breakfast burritos! This lady brought the works with her for this feast! She had with her bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, 18 eggs, sausage, and more hash browns than you can imagine! Naturally, she also had beer and candy bars, like any good trail angel would! When the south bounders showed up they were floored. Hardly anyone does personal trail magic anymore, and you never, ever get it in the middle of the woods! The south bounders and I feasted all morning while Sky served up breakfast burritos for not one, not two, but three rounds! I literally had a hot, delicious breakfast hiked up, cooked, and served to me in the middle of Vermont! I didn't even have to hike for it :).

Once all the food was good and gone all of my friends showed up and we had our big reunion! We swapped our craziest stories from our time a part and caught each other up on what we've been up to. Man have they had some adventures themselves, and retelling all my stories reminded me of how much I've seen and done the last few weeks. It amazing how many stories one can accumulate in such a short amount of time. I'm out here living folks. Are you? :)


P.s. My awesome parents bought me a brand new waterproof camera as a super duper early Christmas present because they knew I really needed one. As a consequence, I am no longer using my phone as my main camera, so unfortunately I don't have any pictures to share :/ I'll try and snap a few with my phone so that the blog doesn't look so empty. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

8/5: On a bus headed back from Boston!

I think I have finally found my true calling in life: professional tourist. I don't know how to say this without coming off egotistical so I'm going to just say it. It seems I am really good at walking into a city having little to no prior knowledge of the area, and somehow leaving that city feeling like I nailed the visit. I've pulled it off in Washington, New York City, and now Boston. Like always, let's start from the beginning, shall we?

First I need to thank Ms. Darby Jane Herrington for treating me to one of the greatest weekends of my life. I still can't believe she was willing to fly up here and take me out on the town of Boston for 3 days and pay for everything! I don't know how I got so lucky finding such a wonderful friend like her. We had a great time exploring the streets of Boston together. We did all sorts of things, such as stumble upon an Italian street festival in North Boston, gaze out at sailboats at Boston's beautiful old harbor, and watched street performers dance, backflip over tourist, stand perfectly still, or juggle knives atop 6 foot tall unicycles at Franeuil Hall Marketplace. We ate delicious food at some of America's oldest restaurants (Darby was pretty shocked at my new found food capacity! But we worked out a good system. I ate all my food and then ate her leftovers too lol), drank local craft beer by the pint, toured Samuel Adam's Brewery, got extremely lost (sorry about that, were we in the wrong neighborhood!), and even went to a stand up comedy show in the shadows of Harvard! Darby and I aren't used to having people around that graduated from a better school then ours lol. By far the coolest thing we did however was follow the Freedom Trail.

Now I know exactly what you're thinking. In fact I am thinking the same thing. I mean seriously Breeze, another stinking trail? Well, yes, actually :). The Freedom Trail is truly the best way to see Boston by foot and should be the first thing you do upon arrival. First, it gives you a great look at the entire city and all the things it has to offer, such as bars, restaurants, parks, and museums. Second, it takes you by some of the oldest and most historical landmarks in the United States. Being able to say I saw the church where the lanterns where hung to alert the Bostonians of the arrival of the Red Coats by sea is really cool. Seeing the graves of Samuel Adams, or the site of the Boston Massacre, or the bar where the idea for the Sons of Liberty was conceived made patriotism course through my very veins. Oh here is some fun trivia for you! Here are three misconceptions that are present in "The midnight Ride of Paul Revere" poem by Henry Longfellow. 

1) Paul Revere did not ride alone. Two other riders were also delivering the message at the start, and many others joined throughout the night.

2) Paul Revere definitely did not yell "The British are coming!" Revere, along with the rest of the New Englanders, were still British citizens. In fact, many of the people living in Boston were English loyalist. He more likely said, "The regulars are coming" very quietly to known patriot houses. Secrecy was critical to their plan.

3) Paul Revere was captured and interrogated by British troops before completing his ride to Concord.

There are actually plenty more, but I don't want to blow anyone's mind any more than necessary. I hope everyone had a great weekend like me!



Saturday, August 3, 2013

8/3: On a bus headed for Boston! 1546.8

That's right folks! I have pulled off the impossible! I have successfully pulled off a plan that has been in the works for weeks! I'm on a bus headed for Boston, MA!! But first, let me catch you guys up on what I've been up to the past couple of days. Buckle up, it's been a wild ride.

First, let me go ahead and take the main issue at hand head on and get it out of the way: Yes, I have pink hair. Allow me to start from the beginning.

Wednesday I hiked a solid 19 miles to reach Great Barrington, MA to resupply and grab a Powerade. The plan was to do a quick in-and-out, grab my food, and spend the night at a campsite near the road. I was feeling really good about my plan at first when I thumbed down a ride on my very first car! That's a really random fact and has absolutely nothing to do with the story, but I was very excited because I've never been able to pull that mythical "one thumb hitch before". That honor is usually reserved for my female thru hiking counterparts. Anyway, I'm doing my shopping in this very swanky high end MA grocery store, receiving my normal "what are you doing in here" looks when a lady comes by and asks if I am thru hiking.

"Yes ma'am," I respond as if by reflex. I always say ma'am...I mean duh. She smiles and asks if I'm from the South.

"Yes ma'am, I'm from Georgia," I respond and we strike up a conversation about why ma'am isn't used in the North and about thru hiking. After a few minutes she asked if I need a place to stay for the night and if I'd like to come to her house for some dinner and laundry. To my mom's horror I immediately take her up on her offer. She was a very peculiar lady but didn't seem dangerous. Plus a free meal and laundry is always worth the risk :). In a few minutes I was in her car headed to her house.

Now I've ridden with so many different people from all over the east coast, but there is one common thread that nearly all of them share: they love telling you their problems. I guess they view me as a free pair of ears that they'll never see again, a kind of free therapy vent session that is my price to pay for a ride into town. I've heard it all, from boneheaded kids to our current administration to their battle against cancer. It can get awkward at times but thankfully the rides are typically short. I really like hitching with other people so when we get out of the car we can look at each other and say, "What in the hell just happened in there??" This ladies problem was that her car was in the shop, and they wanted 1300 dollars to fix some part of the engine she couldn't recall...I just hope they weren't changing her headlight fluid or something....

At the moment she told me the cost of her repair bill it hit her like a ton of bricks. You see, she was in a borrowed car. A car that she was returning to the owner later that night. She wasn't going to be able to get me back to the AT the next day.

Seriously space cadet?? Come back down from the moon Buzz Aldrin, welcome to Earth! But I tell her that's fine, and that she can just take me back to the trail. In a panic she says she doesn't have time. She's really frazzled now, and immediately pulls off in the middle of Great Barrington and wishes me luck as she kicks me out and drives away! I'm left standing in God only knows where MA with my groceries in one hand and my pack in the other wondering what on Earth just transpired in a matter of 30 seconds! I look around for a second and start pulling myself together when I hear a familiar voice call, "Hey Breeeezzeee! Over here!"

All the friend I've been trying to catch the past few days are all sitting out on a patio of a bar just a few yards from where I got dropped off! I've said it so many times on this blog already, but I'm going to say it again: the trail provides! I end up going and hanging out with everyone the rest of the night, drink a few drinks, and listen to all the awesome musicians and performers at open mic night! We all had a great time and I even yogi-ed a few free drinks off some easily fascinated townies. A few hours later...well, you guessed it! I had pink hair. I wasn't alone though, and believe it or not, mine doesn't look that bad compared to some. Poor Home Brew tried to dye his beard. Talk about a disaster. I've been planning to buzz my hair anyway; I found a tick in there the other day. But it'll be a lot of fun walking around Boston with my pink streak!

I hope everyone is behaving themselves back home :). I'll have a blog post for you when I get back from Boston.

Hike on!


Oh and I also went up on a roof. But that's a whole different story. Can't hear em all!