Sorry about the delay everyone! We actually made it to Gorham in good time last Thursday night and were off the trail for about 24 and a half hours. So we cleaned and sorted our gear, resupplied – at Wal-Mart, oh man it was like Supermarket Sweep – showered, ate ourselves silly, picked up some much needed mail drops, went to an awesome hardware/sporting goods store for some new gear, ate more, slept, and hit the trail again Friday afternoon. Not necessarily in that order. So I didn’t really have time for the respectable blog post that you faithful readers deserve.
So we set out again, reaching Pinkham Notch on Saturday afternoon. We saw more people on Carter Dome and Wildcat Mountain that Saturday than we saw in 3 weeks in Maine, since there is a gondola going up Wildcat, a massive visitor center in Pinkham Notch, and because after Pinkham the trail ascends into the Presidentials. So there were scores of day hikers, every one bearing the same ill news: rain all day Sunday. Rather than being caught in the potential fury of Mt. Washington (a mountain home to 3 weather fronts, hurricane force winds, snow every month of the year, and a cafeteria), we called a rain check and rested up all day today in Gorham again.
I had a lot of questions and I’m going to try to address them as best I can. At the end I’ll even reveal the origins of Vanilla Thunder. Some say he was in a hair band that opened for Warrant. We’ll soon find out.
Gorham was such a welcome sight; it was to Maine what Monson was to the 100 mile wilderness. After losing the first pair of socks in a puddle, I burned a hole in my other pair trying to dry them out. Wet feet for 4 days will make a guy do stupid things. Luckily I had picked up a pair of sock liners in Monson, which mitigated the potential foot damage I could have incurred when I walked the next 150 miles with no sole in one of my socks. So, getting new ones in the mail in Gorham was pretty exciting. We also got a belt for Vanilla Thunder so he didn’t have to tie his pants up with a string anymore.
They were loose when we started though and we haven’t lost that much weight. If the scales can be believed, he’s lost about 5 lbs and I’ve lost about 14. Despite the butter we’ve been eating. We put it in oatmeal, grits, instant coffee, mashed potatoes, stove top stuffing, and the classic Knorr Rice and Pasta Sides. Anything that could use a little extra creaminess. But it’s ok, losing 14 lbs took away any reservations I may have had about gorging myself on cravings in town, such as making good on my resolution from week 1 to eat at the first buffet we found. It happened to be Dynasty Buffet, a Chinese place here in Gorham. You’d think after college and hiking that I’d be tired of peanut butter, but their peanut butter chicken was delicious.
Now that I’ve mentioned a few foods I’ll run through the menu. Breakfast is usually pop-tarts, oatmeal, or cereal – granola cereal with powdered milk and brown sugar mixed which we mix and bag in town and then add water to. It’s really almost like the real thing, except I haven’t mastered drinking the milk out of the bag quite like drinking it out of a bowl. But none of these stick with us after a couple of hours, so we have a snack of trail mix, Chex Mix, Fritos, Snyder’s pretzel pieces, or whatever else is laying around. One time we just ate a bag of uncooked instant oatmeal. Kinda like a no bake cookie. Kinda.
Our next snack, or “lunch,” is a couple of tortillas with either PB and some dried fruit (coconut, dates, banana chips) or pepperoni/salami and shaky parmesan cheese from a can (repackaged into a bag). We also put the shaky cheese in a lot of our dinners, which I mentioned earlier: one package for each of us of either Knorr sides, ramen, instant potatoes, or stove top stuffing, which is delicious with craisins dropped in it.
The best thing is the unexpected food, which we sometimes get from other people who understand the hunger associated with long distance hiking. A couple of day hikers have given us spare granola bars. Once I picked up a shopping bag I thought someone had carelessly tossed and I found a full size Snickers inside. In Grafton State Park we found a cooler of trail magic, some cokes that someone left for the hikers. We hid from the rain under the roof of the map kiosk, drank our cokes and fixed lunch while talking to Roaming Gnome, a former long distance hiker. She got in her car and left, only to return 5 minutes later with bananas, tea bags, and some apple cider mix. On a rain-soaked day when we were wet from the time we left our lean-to to the time we got in our tents, this was like a burst of sunlight.
We’re still working on different food set ups, but no matter what I still crave random things during the day. When I get home I am going to wreck some Zaxby’s and CFA, some Publix subs, a big pile of spaghetti, enough PB&J’s to feed all of Gwinnett County schools for a day, and the Mayfield plant in Braselton. The one thing I crave that I won’t be able to get anymore is a whoopie pie, which seems to be New England’s best kept secret. It’s more or less a glorified Hostess thing but man it’s good.
Other than food, I do get songs stuck in my head as well. There’s not a lot of rhyme or reason to them but I just write them down anyway, usually a couple per day. On The Road To Find Out, River of Dreams, Extreme Ways (and thought of you D Mort), The Eagle and the Hawk (we saw a bald eagle from on top of a mountain that day), Dying Day, and Waiting On A Friend have all gotten plenty of airtime, but the most common song is Dixie. Go figure.
One of my favorite days so far was last Wednesday, our last day in Maine. We had camped just north of the Mahoosuc Notch, known as the most difficult mile on the trail, and tackled it early that morning. Then we got to climb Goose Eye Mountain on a sunny, breezy day. I sat up on the rocky summit alone for a little bit and looked at Baldpate, Old Speck, and Maine behind them on one side; and on the other side loomed the Whites and New Hampshire. Maine was incredibly tough and it wasn’t easy to stay positive, but I don’t hold it against the place. That ruggedness is what protects it’s beauty. That first 280 miles taught me that I can survive a lot more than I think I can when I am at home, where everything is so convenient. Things can get a lot worse and still get better. It just takes patience and will.
A couple miles later we encountered 3 NOBOs taking pictures with the sign on the ME-NH border. “Can you tell we’re glad to be out of this state?” one of them asked. Vanilla Thunder replied “We’re glad to be out of Maine!” And then we laughed at them, knowing what they had in store. We’re already becoming trail snobs, on top of being water snobs. Does this stream drain the beaver pond we passed a mile back?… yeah, I think I’ll just go thirsty 6 miles to the next spring.
So I’m A-Town now, thanks to my hat and telling people I’m from Atlanta, but what about Vanilla Thunder? Well legend has it that back in his college days, Dad was a bit of a baller. He needed a good basketball to shoot around with, but they were all endorsed by the big names from the NBA in the 80’s and were too expensive. So after much grumbling he settled on what must have been the cheapest ball, a Chocolate Thunder signature model. His vet school friends decided to make it his own and get rid of the fancy endorsement, so they crossed out Chocolate and wrote Vanilla, and a new legend was born. No, he never wrestled Stone Cold Steve Austin.
It’s super late now. This thing took me hours to write on my phone because there is no computer in the barn where we are sleeping tonight. Well it is a hostel in a barn, called the Barn, but the point is my thumbs are tired so sorry about typos and enjoy these pictures. We’re heading up Mt.Madison and Washington, etc., tomorrow, through the Whites, and resupplying in Lincoln at thd end of the week.Thanks for reading.