Hello from Gorham, NH

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.

Besides, rainy trails in New England tend to just be creeks.

Besides, rainy trails in New England tend to just be creeks.

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.

Have a coke and a smile, and an indescribable view from an observation tower atop a 4000 footer

Have a coke and a smile, and an indescribable view from an observation tower atop a 4000 footer

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.

The trail up to Goose Eye

The trail between peaks on Goose Eye

Goodbye Maine!

Goodbye Maine!

Hello New Hampshah, huh

Hello New Hampshah, huh

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.

Volunteer trail crews have been hard at work in ME this month straighting up the blow downs

Volunteer trail crews have been hard at work in ME this month straighting up the blow downs

Crawl-through in the Mahoosuc Notch

Crawl-through in the Mahoosuc Notch. There’s a white blaze in there somewhere.

Fancy double-decker Appalachian Mountain Club shelter at Gentian Pond, complete with bear box and mice

Fancy double-decker Appalachian Mountain Club shelter at Gentian Pond, complete with bear box and mice

Can't beat the view from the front door, either.

Can’t beat the view from the front door, either.

Horn Pond, directly below the North and South Horn in the Bigelows

Horn Pond, directly below the North and South Horn in the Bigelows

The Bigelow Range: flat topped Little Bigelow to the right, the 2 peaks of Bigelow in the center, the South Horn off to the left, almost all completed in a day

The Bigelow Range: flat topped Little Bigelow to the right, the 2 peaks of Bigelow in the center, the South Horn off to the left, almost all completed in a day

Bless you, Yolo. This is what I came for.

Bless you, YOLO. This is what I came for.

Hi from Andover, ME

So as you can see, this is just a hi instead of hello. It’ll be a shorter post since im doing it from my phone, but if you’re reading this then I was successful.

We’ve approximately doubled our mileage since the last post, being at 246 now, which means 2 things: less than 2000 miles to go now, and this is our last resupply in ME. We’ll be in New Hampshire in about 3 days, which is super exciting.  The Whites, y’all! Burger King! Fewer mosquitos, so we can ditch our head nets and frequent recoatings of deet!

We’re still healthy and well fed, and thanks to all that have been praying for us. In fact, we are probably the best fed people on the trail right now, according to a SOBO we met who is completing his triple crown ( having hiked the Pacific Crest and Continetal Divide in the 2 past consecutice years) and who eats about half as much as us on any given night. This is mostly because Dad insists on carrying a pound of butter in his pack to put in everything, so we are representing Georgia well and might be the first thru hikers to actually gain weight on the trail. I’ll detail our diet a little more in the next, hopefully longer post, for those interested.

This last section has contained the prettiest hikes and most miserable ones – like doing 18 miles, half in the rain, over Bigelow Mtn. But that’s part of the trail, and we just wait for the sun to come out and dry us off. It’s worth it for this view from Saddleback Mtn.

Thanks for all the comments and I promise I’ll do a better job addressing them in the next post. Especially the mysterious history of Vanilla Thunder.  Just wanted to let you know where we are. Also, more pictures to come.

0619151505A-Town

Hello from Monson, ME!

I don’t even know where to start with this.

We made it through the 100-Mile Wilderness, only slightly worse for wear, but with food to spare, which is good.  I set a PR for longest time without a shower.  By day 4 I was realizing how accustomed I was to civilization, and how strange it was not to be around it.  Whenever I heard the distant sound of a motor I would snap out of my walking trance, which is nothing but feet pounding and whatever song happens to be stuck in my head that day.  And when a song gets stuck in your head in the middle of the woods in Maine, there isn’t much to get it out.  So even sitting here alone in the Monson Public Library, which is in the back of the combined town hall and volunteer fire station, feels almost like I am back in Atlanta.

Katahdin was an amazing way to start the trail, and I understand why it is so popular to end there.  Having also been to Springer Mountain I can easily say there is just no comparison.  Being a bit of a nerd, of course I couldn’t help being reminded of the Lonely Mountain, the way it looms over the surrounding area and tiny nearby town of Millinocket. Plus, we kept getting these scenic views of it for days as we walked away – it’s really quite a buildup for the NOBOs.

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Katahdin from Abol Bridge, 10 miles down the trail. Darn time stamp.

We postponed our climb a day so that we wouldn’t be caught in freezing rain on top, and though it was overcast in Baxter State Park when we began, we soon climbed through the clouds and were getting a sunburn on Katahdin’s tablelands. It took about 3 and a half hours to climb the 5 miles up to the summit, up stone stairs, scrambling over rocks, jumping over puddles and endangered tundra grasses, and trudging through snow, but Dad was practically running up the trail.  My fears were coming true as I panted to keep up.  Of course the 5 miles down just wore us completely out.  We set up our tents at the trailhead, the first of many times, and Dad was snoring by 7:15.

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5 miles in, and NOW the hike begins.

I had no idea what I was going to see going from there, but if I could sum up the Wilderness in one word, it would be wet.  Maine is wet.  For the first half of the week we patiently hopped from root to rock to root and balanced on rotten old log bridges, but eventually there was just no getting around the wet boots.  We had to learn to embrace it.  My boots have been wet for the last 4 days.  You know what else embraces a lot of wetness? Mosquitos.  Holy smokes I have never seen so many mosquitos in my life.  Dad stops to look for fish in a river, and I just have to keep walking or else I get attacked.  I guess the mud and mosquitos are the price of the pristine beauty of the beaver ponds and crystal clear rivers nestled between cedar-clad mountains.

We all ready met lots of interesting people, many of whom are from Georgia, and none of the people I know have quit yet. On the second day I ran into Steven from the Atlanta REI as I was coming out of the privy, but he’s such a nice guy he shook my hand anyway.  1 Step from Marietta, Little Miss Sunshine from Ohio, No Rush from New Hampshire, an L.L. Bean trail crew – all very unique and lots of fun to talk to.  Aaron, who we’ve been hiking with a lot, told me he wanted to do the trail to meet people.  I have since adopted that as one of my reasons for doing it too.  There are a lot of amazing people out here, and they are all doing what they love, and it shows.  We met a ridge runner, paid by the Maine Appalachian Trail Club to hike the trail, and she told me I was going to have a beautiful day of hiking right before I slogged through 11 miles of mud and rain.  But she honestly loves just being on the trail.  I hope I can develop that unquenchable hiker optimism out here.

The rest of the 100-Mile has had quite a variety of terrain, from bogs to bald mountains to rolling hills and slate ridges. We hopped across a couple of beaver dams, climbed halfway up an old fire-tower before chickening out, and slept shoulder to shoulder with 5 other guys and a dog in a lean-to.  And we made it out in about 8 days.

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In case you ever wondered, “hey, what does the place where I get all my lobsters and horror novels look like?”

So I’m going to wrap this up because it is lunch time, and I also need to go soak my feet in some Epsom salt.  They were on fire yesterday.  It makes fording rivers one of my favorite things, because the 50 degree water feels awesome on my feet.  Dad doesn’t like fording because it slows us down, and one time he tried to throw his boots across the river and got them stuck in a tree.

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Oh yesssss, that feels good.

Other than that he’s doing great – no blisters, strains, anything.  Which leads me to the last section:

Injury Report
Seth (no trail name yet):
-2 feet full of blisters
-2 strained knees (swelled up on day 3, man it has been a tough week)
-broken spork
-bent trekking pole
-lost sock

Vanilla Thunder:
-some black fly bites
-stove clogged with powdered milk (that was my fault)

Feel free to ask questions or suggest what you want to read in future posts.  I won’t be updating very often since I am, after all, in the woods most of the time, but I should have something up every week and half or so.  Thanks for reading!  Next resupply: Stratton, ME, next Tuesday or Wednesday.

Hello from my couch.

No, I haven’t seen a bear yet.  This is just the first post, and I showered in the past 12 hours.  My pack is packed and sitting by the door, we’ve stocked up on instant grits and potatoes, noodles, and granola (among other things), and the goodbye-for-nows have been said.  On Monday, Dad and I are flying up to Maine, and starting Tuesday we’ll be walking home.

We backpacked for the first time together about 8 years ago on the southernmost 30 miles of Appalachian Trail. Ever since then we said that if the other one ever wanted to do the whole thing, we’d both do it.  So, with my college graduation and imminent freedom approaching, I called his bluff, and in February we started planning.

I spent the last five years living in downtown Atlanta and spent the last five months eating regularly at the new Cookout around the corner from my house, so I’m basically as prepared as I can get.

Seriously though, I am incredibly thankful to get to do this, especially with my dad.  It’s the opportunity of a lifetime for me.  It seems ludicrous to some, but maybe this blog will shed a little light on why we wanted to do it.  I’ve never written a blog before, and most of my contributions to the online world are limited to 140 characters, but I’m going to do my best here and let the trail do the rest.

Not sure when the next post from the actual trail will be.  Our first resupply will be in Monson, Maine, 114 miles into the trail, right after the aptly-named “100 Mile Wilderness.”  We aim to be there around the 10th.  I’m off to bed.  See you all in 6 months.