Thursday, August 7, 2008


I'm just gonna come out and say it; Maine is hard. At least this first part is. We've been travelling through the Mahoosuc Range, which, though not as tall or steep as the Whites, presents plenty of challenges. The Mahoosuc Notch, famously known as the hardest mile on the trail, didn't disapoint. Its a dramatic climb over, under, and around boulders through a narrow pass, and any fall could result in being stuck in ice (yes, ice in August) filled crevices. A moose skeleton adorned with prayer flags, the remnants of an accident last year, is a testament to its difficulty. Spectacular yes, but challenging to say the least with a 40 lbs pack, and followed immediately by the tiring Mahoosuc Arm climb.
Next came Baldpate Mt., possibly the most dangerous ascent so far. The thermometer read 50 degree at the base, but with a completely bare summit, sustained 70 mph winds, horizontal rain and, slick rocks, the threat of exposure was great. Several swollen stream fordings have followed, as well as a climb up a mudslide-swept rock face have rounded out the difficult terrain.
By far the greatest challenge however has been the rain. The constant, constant rain. It's very demoralizing to realize that all the effort to reach a peak is wasted on clouded in summits, disheartening to give in to the fact that your gear is never going to be light and dry again, and maddening when every climb feels like cross-country skiing uphill on mud. The moisture is all pervasive, as is the feeling of being perpetually pummeled, and worst of all is the fatigue of always being strung out on adrenaline from slipping on slick roots. Its strange to talk about getting seasonal affective disorder in the summer, but there it is. The rain doesn't look like it will let up soon, but the terrain is supposed to get easier, and with only 255 miles or so to go, there is no turning back now. Every moment of sun is an unexpected surprise now, and an iron will can't be rusted. On to Katadhin!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Escape Velocity

Escape velocity is the term I use to describe the relative willpower needed to get out of a trail town or rest area after stopping; how tired you are, how nice the town is, who you are with, etc., all affect this. Since arriving in NH, I've been fortunate enough to get two family visits and currently am in Gorham with my brother and his girlfriend for a day. The hiking in this state has been by far the hardest we've encountered, but also the most rewarding with spectacular views from mountains above treeline, awsome waterfalls, and the opportunity to stay in "huts", essentially mountain lodges staffed by a "croo" that have home cooked food and running water.
All this would be great, were it not for a stomach bug that I seemed to have picked up and the fact that we've been getting wailed on by rain at some point every day. Couple that with the tough climbs, mud, and rock walls one expects to find here and I've been hurting an inordinate amount. The fatigue and joint pain associated with ascending and descending so steeply is nothing I'm not prepared for, but the lack of appatite and subsequent lack of nutrition is somewhat disconcerting. Coming into a town and not being hungry is completely foreign to a hiker, and the fact that lately I've been hitting the bottom is even worse. For 1800 miles I've been able to dig and push up hills as long as I replace the energy; for a few days that seemed to not be the case. Luckily I'm sitting here typing this and my stomach is telling me its time for breakfast in a big way, so hopefully the worst is past. Giving the terrain I have hanging over my head for the next coupla days, I'm gonna need alot of power to get to escape velocity.