Thursday, December 27, 2007

End of Days; resting no more

After, to my my mind, a lengthy recovery from my surgery, I'm ready to head back out to continue my adventures. I'll be heading south to Florida to learn how to sail. If things go well, I hope to travel by boat to whatever places open up for me. I'm not picky, any destination will do.

Living aboard sounds like a lot of fun to me. Though, I'll start with a class and some time spent doing day sails. After I'm comfortable, assuming I still enjoy it, I'll try getting onto someone's boat for a longer cruise.

Although I'm sad that I didn't finish my Appalachian Trail thru-hike in one go, I do plan on finishing it at some point. I'd resume it now, but I'm not back up to full strength yet and finishing the hike in cold weather doesn't excite me. I really enjoy hiking in spring and summer because of the growth going on. Winter isn't as satisfying. Besides, it's darn cold.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Done with PNC Bank

PNC has finally pushed me away. After a few failures to send out checks entered for automatic bill payments, and being dinged $20 bucks a month for low account balances in what used to be a free checking account I am leaving them. It's been a 10 year relationship, but it will be over soon. At one time I would have missed them, but now I'm looking forward to moving on. Hopefully I won't be hurt again.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Brrrrr-eaking the cold weather gear out (with new ER twist)

We're getting some colder temperatures out here these days. I've been getting down to freezing at night, though not long enough to freeze my water bottles. Luckily the rain we got recently has filled up the springs and streams, so there is actually water in my bottles ready to freeze. I've very excited about the wool long underwear that is sitting about a mile away from here at the Rendezvous Motel, where I'm staying tonight. The hourly rate is very reasonable here in Pearisburg VA.

The leaves are starting to be past their prime, and are mostly brown now rather than the great color show that was going on as recently as last week. If I had to make a complaint (of which, I really do have very few), it would be that the deep leave cover on the ground makes following the trail hard. When the trail is visible, if covered, the leaves make travel hard due to not being able to see the pointy rocks, holes, or tripping roots. Even when [not finished due to time limit in the library]

Now with Medical TV Flavor:

So... a bunch has happened in the last week. It all basically boils down to: after I wrote that text above, I went to get more food (5 plates of all you can eat chinese!), and later that night suffered incredible stomach cramps, vomiting and fever. I thought this could have been a stomach virus or food poisoning, so I waited it out for 4 days. Two of those I was being baby-sat by a very helpful hiker buddy. After 4 days I was finally convinced that medical help was needed, and was sent to the ER where fluids were alternately (well... sometimes simultaneously) pumped into and out of me.

They found that a gall stone had probably passed through my pancreas, an infection was raging in my still stone filled gall bladder, and that my gall bladder wussed out and ruptured. So, they gutted me, taking out the gall bladder, and hosed all the bile and infected material out of my torso. Well... do you still call it being gutted if they use 3 tiny holes instead of a large ragged gash?

The good news is that

  • I didn't die (oh yeah! they said I could have in those first 24 hours of agony),
  • though the stone wasn't the biggest, nor was the gall bladder wall the thickest, the doctor did proclaim that my rupture was the messiest he's seen in over 1000 gall bladder surgeries
  • I'll need just a couple more weeks of recovery time.
  • the swelling around the incision area has migrated south on my torso, doing what all those spam e-mails claim, but without herbs (though only temporarily, painfully, and unusably)

I'm resting up at our Kentucky sanatorium (AKA, the folk's home). I will decide a bit later on if I'm going to continue to finish the trail this year, or if I'm going to move on to my next adventure. Either way, if you see folks on the trail who know me, pass on the news: "he's not dead yet. you may still have to see him again."

Ah... and just to protect the all-you-can-eat chinese place (because it was good eats)... it wasn't their food that did me in. The fats/oils just triggered what was already going to happen. I could have just as easily been stricken after drinking a bottle of EVOO or eating a stick of butter as in my normal food-dreams.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Are you VA-jellin'? or Virginia Wolfe meets Dr. Sholes. or VA, VA, VA, boom.

Man, can I move slow when I don't want to. I've "Virginia creeper"-ed along, managing to break 50 mile weeks for the last two weeks or so. I've recently visited with, or stayed with friends and/or family of friends a few times, taken a side road trip, been stricken with the common cold, and developed a possibly pus-filled pocket in one of my perambulation providers (got a cyst or some other fun-filled bump in my knee).

Thanks guys who put me up for the night! It was greatly appreciated. Home cooked food and hot baths (yes, more than one!) are so much better when you get them after a long wait (so far about 4 1/2 months on the trail).

I took a 200 mile detour back to Gettysburg with a couple other hikers to go to a long distance hiker gathering. It's strange to go so fast, especially backward to places I didn't think I'd see again until much later. Off in the distance from Gettysburg, you can see the mountains we walked across headed south on the trail. Luckily, we didn't have to walk back.

Somewhere along the line I picked up a cold and just didn't have the wind to keep walking all day. I popped off to a hotel just outside of the Shenandoahs for a few days to recover.

I have a bubble in my left knee! Who knows what's in there, but we may find out soon. I'll try to take pictures, cause I hear it could get colorful, and fountain-like. Looking forward to jabbing it with something sharp. Just waiting for a large enough audience.

Last night, my tent pole broke in two places. Yes I was sober, and paying attention this time. Mountain Hardware is sending a replacement at my next trail stop. I've never had such good service... It took about 2 minutes to get everything taken care of; very painless. Very happy.

I'm having a blast with the banjo... getting OK at a couple of songs, and close to being able to sing one... right now, I can only say the song rather than sing it.

I saw 4 more bears... total = 7. And all of them ran away, proving hiker smell beats bear aggression.

I'm in another Waynesboro (this time in VA), at the 1325 mile marker on the trail. So only another 848 miles to go.

there is still so much to tell that I can't get out in these 20 minute computer time slots. May be staying in town another night... so possibly another edition tomorrow.

Ciao, and miss all you guys. Just not enough to come back yet :) Oh... and a teaser... I may have figured out what to do when I'm done walking (besides sitting down for a long time). Until next time, I'm mostly still walking, and always still having a blast!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Half and half

So, I've officially made it half way. Whether you count miles, or traditional "middle" markers. I'm tired. My feet hurt nearly as much as they smell. I'm still loving it.

Latest adventures:

Was introduced to the wild world of Sheetz, the gas station of the future. They have every flavor of soda on tap (via a machine named "the fizzanator"), and about 20 flavors of cappuccino (via a machine I've dubbed "the cappuccinator"). Also, you can't order anything directly from a person, except cigarettes. Everything else goes through a machine... and don't even think about asking how to use the machine. No substitutions, no exception! Fun, but at least a large coffee cost 52 cents (same price as a small, for some thinks the machine was hosed up, or the human at the register was hosed up).

On leaving Wyanesboro, I stopped for a drink. It was my birthday for crying out loud! Turned out to be a great idea. Got free food and drink. Ran the pool table for a while. Had the whole bar singing "Happy Birthday". Finally, had to walk two miles of road back to the trail at 2 in the morning, and planted my sleeping bag just off the trail because the combination of rocks, dark, and booze wasmore conducive to shin and knee brusing than long distance walking. I did have offers for rides back to the trail head... but beer sounded better than leaving on someone else's schedule. So, welcome to the list folks from the last tavern in Wyanesboro; prepare for eye strain!

Had a great meal just off the trail... about $100 a head. Was worth it just to crash the wedding that was going on in the same place at the same time :) Nothing like mixing knee high smelly socks with tuxedos, and wicking t-shirts with cumberbunds, dusty black fleece vests with white flowing gowns. As we left, we borrowed some excess half and half containers from the reception area for coffee back in camp. If the newly wed couple's union is half as good as the bond between the first half and the second half of half and half, then they should last at least 10 days in the sun.

And that does it for now... folks are eyeing me in this hostel outside of Harpers Ferry... Ciao, until later ;)

Friday, September 28, 2007

quick AT photo dump, and Happy b-day from the trail

Latest Appalachian trail photos are at:

I haven't had time to edit or attach lables to these, but they run from Vermont down to PA.

Don't forget the others:

It is my b-day today... so howdy! Staying at a friend's family's place. Had a gargantuan breakfast buffet, and a little banjo playing. Hung out with some cool kitty cats, and uploaded pictures.

I'm still working on getting a phone back, so if I'm not calling folks back... get used to it :)

Still hiking in a clump of south bounders, which is really changing how the whole trail experience works for me (primarily things like egging folks into drinking a gallon of milk). Luckily I still get fun times like spending two days reading next to a duck pond in Boiling Springs, PA.

Ok... time up. Running. May try 4 state challange (the 56 miles from PA, through MA, WV, and into VA in 24 hours)... but probably I'll just do 20's :) I'm a lazy, non-rushing bum these days. Oh.. maybe a movie before I leave town!

Friday, September 21, 2007

PA rocks!

It has been a few hundred miles since the last mail, and I have a handy computer, so here goes:

I pulled my first 28 or 29 mile day yesterday to get into Duncannon PA. I'm nearly out. I'm looking at about a week and a half to get to the edge of Virginia, for those of you in VA who are looking to meet up. If I get my phone back soon, I'll be giving you guys a call as I get closer.

I would have been here quicker, alas, I keep having such a great time meeting people and seeing things, that I maintain my erratic pace. Since my NYC stop, I've passed through NY, NJ, and most of PA. It got super rocky; these rocks kick balls (of the feet). At some point I'll get to a place that I can upload photos... one of the coolest is of a rattle snake devouring a chipmunk. I missed several snapshots of bears, and a few other killer snakes.

I also failed to take pictures of co-ed naked, drunken, fire circle running and falling. I really wish I had taken some photos of the nice scrapes, bangs, and bruises I picked up tripping over the PA rocks. With a little blurring out of sensitive bits, I could have even shared them with you guys. In the course of that night, I lost my glasses too. On which I will blame all the falling down, rather than blaming the wild turkey, darkness, rocks, and nakedness.

This innocent debauchery happened just out side of Palmerton, PA where I and a few others ended up taking a few zero days. As if in trade for the lost glasses, some unknown person put finger picks for a banjo into my banjo case. Very strange that someone would happen to have finger picks, realize that I didn't have them, and stick them secretly into my case. I imagine a deranged garden gnome is to blame.

I've bumped into two more random re-meets of random folks that I never thought I'd see again. One was of a northbound hiker, who I've now seen in two states walking her dog, after she finished her hike. Another was a woman from the Palmerton diner, who I bumped into a few days later, and ~ 60 miles later as she was day hiking. This makes the count of coincidental re-meets around 7 or 9. It's a small trail.

Lost my phone in a car. Met someone at a nice view and I talked my smelly, hungry, hiker body into a dinner run with her. Had good cheap food, and thought that was going to be it... now there's a whole crew working on retrieval of the phone.

Saw 3 bears on the trail. All ran away pretty quickly.

I've been hiking with other people since I left NYC. It completely changes how this hike feels. I got so used to being secluded every night... and now I have real people I can talk to! Good and bad, both. Mostly good, and I'm not looking to being alone anytime soon, o my pace may be getting less erratic as I try to keep in the pack. On the other hand, maybe I'll break back out of the pack so I can continue my own strange trip.

Gosh... there is too much more, and I don't have the time. Wish I could get this stuff down in mail as it happens rather than a 10 minute gush every couple of weeks. Hopefully I can get in more soon... Still having a blast out here.

Monday, August 27, 2007

New York? New Liver!

I'll be on the move again today. I had the itch to leave on Friday night, but somehow Friday ran smack into Saturday with awesome suddenness. I missed hitting the post office by noon, so I lived up my marooned status until Monday. I never thought I'd say it, but thank god trail side tiki bars with all day drink specials went out of style; my liver needs to air out.

I've picked up some public domain audio books from librivox to help keep the noodle from drying out. I had some insight into ol' Ted Kasinski's mental break while trying to get some of the commercial audio book folks to work with the public library system and my MP3 player at the same time. He may have been crazy, but luckily he got sent up river before trying this stuff out. The horrors that he would have unleashed make me shudder.

Speaking of soul deep chills; I walked through a day of rain to get to the train station into NYC. Once I get to the train platform, everything was soaked, and the temperatures were in the mid 50's. Those conditions and a nice breeze whipping across the platform, and through the train during the hour or more ride made me wonder how embarrassing it would be to walk this far and die of hypothermia in the city. Luckily, the shivering and rocking was enough to keep my temps up, and the seats next to me empty.

It was great seeing all the NYC crew! It's difficult to leave, but I did start to realize that I'm not in the right frame of mind to live here right now. I'm not sure if that's a temporary thing or not. More thinking on that... as it helps me decide what I'm doing after this.

Whoops.... gotta run. Food, then train. Ah... NYC food. Wish I could marry a fried chicken sandwich... or coffee, or even the ribs :(


Monday, August 20, 2007

Connecticut Re-connection

I've been moving a bit faster than I was expecting. I had my first 23 mile day, which I felt for two days. I'll be in NYC probably Tuesday night, and may stay through the weekend. I'm looking for temporary lodging... (drat team untie)... so folks, give a call if you want to stink up your apartment a bit, and have a guy polish a 3' x 6' space on your floor. Also, if folks want to do any goofy tourist stuff, or teach me to sail, then give a call. Oh.... and the pouring beer and/or food into my food portal... call now!

As for all things mental, I'm doing pretty dang ol' good. Mass and Conn have been very good for me. The variety in terrain has been fun fun fun, and I got to hang out with some other hikers for a moral lift, and some lifting of spirits to my lips. I really like the woods out here. Walking out here reminds me a bit of Maine, with changing from river walks, to rocky scrambles, to mossy stream sittin' spots. I kind of wish I weren't hitting NY so soon. Alas, NYC calls and the miles pass.

Funniest hitch hike of the week: truck with locked bed cover driven by stoner guy (also he fishes and is a carpenter... JC is it you?), had to drag the banjo and pack into the front seat with me again. Tight hitch. Not as bad as the mini cooper hitch, but a close second. You haven't lived until you are swinging around 30 MPH curves at 60 MPH, with no seat belt, and no option of jumping from the moving vehicle. He was fun though! And smelled like pot! Second coming, indeed!

Best magic of the week: met three guys walking down this steeeeep hill that lead to a shelter .5 miles off the trail. I had night hiked in and didn't realize how steep it really was. These guys were older folks, and asked me to pass on word of their whereabouts to two others ahead of them. I met the two others and passed on word. Later in the day I got the three guys seriously lost when the trail was ambiguous, but got them straightened out again after a half mile detour. Then I hit a road where the other two were driving back to find the the hikers I misled. I mentioned that the pack of three were going to be just a bout 15 minutes behind me. So the two guys pull over the car and whip out beer! Two beers later, I stumbled off into the woods again. Getting paid in beer for losing your friends; priceless, unless beer has a monetary value, in which case it's two beers worth of money.

Worst smell of the week: close tie between my socks, and the water I had to filter a couple days back. One smelled like death, the other like a sulfur pit. Filtering that water through my socks may actually have mellowed the scent. Mmm, poland springs may be on to something.

Strangest recent connections:

  1. Allied One, a company that insists I may have already won a ford explorer or 25,000$ keep leaving me partial voice mails.
  2. Google, who are trying to interview me again while out here. What an odd time and place in life to try taking a technical phone call. "Patricia trie? Nah... but lots of maples!"
  3. Bumped into a section hiker that I met in Maine. It's a small trail.

Well... I'll be turning on the phone tomorrow when I zero in on NYC. Hopefully there's a place to sleep, and a cold one waiting. Here's to figuring out the train system again, after spending 2.5 months where the most complicated part of the day is lifting your foot up and putting it back down again, or working a spork. Pot-smoking-hitch-driver save me!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Critical Mass; Lovermont or leave it

I may have to cut this one short...

So, I've left Vermont for Massachusetts and all the Huggy folks there. I liked the people much, much, much more, than I liked the hike through Vermont. I hit a mental barrier that I used to laugh at when I read other people's accounts of hiking long distances. I thought they just didn't like nature as much as they thought, or were just quitters. As I've learned, after walking 600 miles, it is just hard to get up and spend another 8 hours walking. I'm still going. I'm just not sure anymore that I'll be walking all the way to Georgia. I keep having to remind myself that this trip isn't about walking from Maine to Georgia, it's about jumping at opportunities, learning, living a more full life, meeting great people, seeing great things, and shitting in the woods.

If walking Vermont killed my soul, it's people helped me forget that I don't really believe in souls. I popped into towns as much as possible to help relieve the boredom that I was feeling while walking. I met several folks along the way... and now they are on this list as well... Howdy newcomers! Hitch hiking has been loads of fun, but sadly almost no terrible stores have come about due to hitching. I was picked up by a couple of guys in a sporty yellow 2 door, that looked like they were up to no good, but even they turned out to be okay; they weren't the gang banging shoot-a-guy-in-the-face-for-his-shoes type of guys they appeared to be at first blush.

It took me much longer than expected to do the last couple hundred miles... I'm physically able to do 20+ mile days now, but I just have a hard time getting my head to do it. I find every excuse to sit down, or get distracted, or sleep in, run to a town, read a book, or pluck a banjo. I've seriously considered getting off the trail. Before Vermont, I never doubted that I'd finish, but now I just can't say one way or the other. I've been trying to figure out what I'm really doing out here, and if I ever figure that out, my plans may very well change.

Today I'm sitting at around 620 miles in Dalton, Mass, in the cool (AC!) library. Thanks to yet another trail legend I have a place to sleep as long as I need. I had planned on staying only one night, but now I'm on my second zero day here. I'm doing some thinking, I think... and some resting, some drinking, and some reading, and lots of eating. I've been having a grand old time, but I'll be moving on shortly, hopefully with a clearer picture of what the heck I'm up to.

I'm feeling pretty good in the head today, but we'll see how that is when I get walking again. I've picked up a new pair of shoes today, as the last pair are pretty close to dead. By the smell, they've been dead for quite some time... and rotting in the sun. I've also picked up a banjo (punny!), because I got it stuck in my head that I'd like to learn how to play the banjo. The sales clerk was cruel enough to keep trying to lead me to the much smaller and much lighter mandolins, but finally agreed to sell me a banjo when he realized I was seriously going to put cash in his hand that moment. That I agreed to not playing the banjo in the store also made the transaction go much smoother.

So... the banjo is yet another excuse to move slower. It's also one of the goals of my hike. This trip is partially to help me change how I live. Impulsive acts and enthusiasm for learning are on the list of things I want to keep alive.

I think I'll be getting to NYC in around 3 weeks. As I get closer, I'll be calling down the list for folks that want to pour beer into my burger hole. On the other hand, maybe I'll just show up, that way you can't cheap out on me by leaving town before buying me a beer.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

He's got legs, and knows how to bruise them

These trail runners were made for running, and that's just what they'll do, one of these days these trail runners are going to break my creaking ankles clean off.

Once again, I've hit a computer... this time from a respectable home with a shower that doesn't fall over if you brush against the wall. Huge thanks to the Monsein family of Sugar Hill NH; of the mother daughter pair I may have mentioned to some of you. The mother portion of that gang has a stress fracture and has taken me in. Her daughter continues to hike and gobble up all the trail magic south of here.

I've just come down from the Franconia ridge, which I can see from the back porch here (these here Monsein cats have some neato diggs), after around 360 miles or so of the trail. Just recently I've found a set of trail legs have grown in where my old legs used to be. They may have been cobbled out of the rubber tire that has gone missing from around my gut region. It is truly amazing what these new toys can do! They keep on trudging up hills even when I'm too out of breath to keep going, they can jog at a good 4 mile per hour pace on the few flats and copious down hills. Unfortunately, my right foot is still pretty against the whole idea of walking 2000 miles and keeps trying to escape by breaking off at the ankle. It has attempted this escape maneuver twice this week.. I can tell because my ankle complains of separation anxiety. I'll survive, but don't be surprised if I come back with a peg foot.

I hear it is toasty hot in NYC, but the last several days I've been looking at my breath as is fogs out from my wheezing lungs in the White Mountains. I've luckily avoided hypothermia, but was a bit concerned when going towards and up Mt. Washington, at a 1 mile per hour pace, in the rain, in the clouds, in the 40 mph winds. I had skipped breakfast that morning and ran out of fuel for the furnace about half way up. Luckily I was able to cram about 2000 calories into my Oreo hole on the top of Washington, and complete the day soaked, and shivering about 10 hours into my 7 mile hike that day.

I've been very wet. It's been one of those Charles Shultz weeks (or two?), but with real rain clouds following me and trees that eat pack covers rather than kites. I'm still loving every moment... though mostly in retrospect, rather than as I live them.

I did a work-for-stay at one of the Huts in the White Mountains a few days back, where to get room and board that night I had to tell about the AT trip to a crowd of well fed, warm, day-hiker types. This bard's tale was to be told the night of my Mt. Washington hike. I planned it nervously, but as I started talking and folks prompted with questions, I really brightened up as I revisited all the funny stories and beautiful spots. I think I talked for about an hour and fifteen minutes to the crowd, and around 2 more on an individual basis to a few more interested folks. Memories are right at the top of the list of thing I'm loving about this trip, rivaled by the people and beautiful sights, while the actual walking has moved down to the bottom, just above shivering in the cold rain because everything I own is wet.

I forget where I left you guys last, so here are some of the more interesting parts that I think didn't make the last mail I sent out:

- I crossed my first state line (now my socks have become a federal Superfund case, not just a Maine problem!)

- I have pictures of a gory Moose death in the Mahoosuc Notch. (the notch is claimed to be "the hardest mile" on the trail... envision a glass of ice water, the cubes bunched up at the bottom; be an ant crawling down the nearly vertical inner side of the glass as water pours down it, then climb over and under the cubes of ice for a mile, then climb up the far side of the glass as water pours down it as well.) (hell, the locals can't do it very well either, just see picture of the moose for verification)

- I've turned into an "ounce weenie" to some extent. I dropped my pack weight from around 40 lbs. to around 25 lbs. Now every day is almost like day hiking. I still have more pounds to shave from my packing list... but I've got plenty of time.

- I'm nearly through "all the hard parts" of the trail, according to most north bounders I run into. Apparently, I should start pushing 40 mile days unless I'm a real wuss, or a cadaver, or both. Judging from the smell of my socks... I'm no wuss (hey, I did voluntarily smell them, right), but very possibly cadaverous.

- I can still get a sun burn in an hour. A few days back I got 1 hour of sun, in between sprinkles as I was crossing an open cliff. I proceeded to strip down and pull everything out of my pack to dry. I just had enough time to dry it all before the rain came, and I had to pack quick... but I can still feel the burn on my shoulders (yeah! pack straps rock my world... or is that wreck my world?)

- I met the cleanest, perkiest north bound chick ever (just near the NH ME border). I still have no idea how she kept that lime green, tight, sleeveless tee so clean and wrinkle free. Yes, I made eye contact first, but the cleanliness had to be looked at... promise I wasn't "checking her out" for more than a few minutes.

- I've been congratulated on my beard several times this week. Kind of strange being alone in the woods with a guy praising the fur around my lips...

- I challenge you all to Indian leg wrestling. $5 per match!

- I haven't weighed my self recently, but I do now have this odd pack of flesh where my belly fat used to be contained. I hope that pocket tightens up soon, or 'm going to play with it until it falls off.

Hopefully I can upload some pictures before I head out from the Yellow Bird and Grey Goose homestead. If I ever leave... they are too nice here!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

slack packery, foot quackery, nerd geekery, and otherwise jabber jawin'

Huh? What's "slack packing"? That's what us guys who carry too much do to get by.

I've hit Andover, ME and will be getting a lift, with a much lighter pack, to two points along the trail, do a day of hiking, and get picked up at the end of the day. I'll be getting through one of the rougher 10-20 mile sections this way over the next day or two. This way, you get all the parts of the trail in, but don't kill yourself doing it. Just two weeks ago I was scoffing at this practice, thinking I wouldn't do it.... but gosh darn it, these last few hills have been much bigger than the map, and I'm not ready to push the infamous foot too hard just yet. In other words, I'm pussing out for a bit. On a plus side, I may be trading my highly prized computer skillz (learned from watching napoleon dynamite at least 3 times) for a night or two at the pine ellis hostel in andover.

For all those who expressed concern regarding my masturbatory difficulties, let it be known that much discussion and some experimentation have yielded a surprisingly and disgustingly simple solution (pun obviously intended). I will refrain from damaging the eyes and minds reading this, but if your dark depraved side must know, ask me and ye shall be stricken with the information.

Google's spell check doesn't work on this computer... so, now you will all realize how poorly I really spell. Another cat out of the bag... speaking of which... if there are any folks out there who can put an ear or three to the ground to help find a home for sick cats, please do so and get back to me or Dave Bogdan. The cat is expressing frustration at my disappearance by causing her kidneys to fail. This in turn is leading to all sorts of fun for Dave. If someone knows of a home that would take in an unhealthy kitty, it may very well keep us from calling her names or otherwise putting her down.

The two leading questions I've got from folks:

1) accidental mail program failure caused the chopping... who knows what I was going to say?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

AT pictures so far...

Hopefully that works... I managed to bungle some stuff, so no complaining! Yes some are blurry, don't rub your eyes... you may get deet in them.

Back out to resting the foot in the woods today. Looks like I have about 10 days to get better, because I can't carry too much more food than that... not with this stack of 5 books, anyway!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Back in Stratton

I pulled out of Stratton, ME a few days ago, but only made about 7 miles. I've been holed up in a tent trying to keep my foot up. I think the arch pain is more serious than I first thought. I've road walked and got a lift back into Stratton to pick up more food. I'm planning on staying here the night and going into the next shelter south where I left off with enough food to last me another week or 10 days. Hopefully that will be long enough a rest period to get going full steam again.

Morale is low at the moment, but should be on the upswing again soon enough. It's sad seeing the friendly folks I've been walking with pulling ahead. I've been plowing through books just sitting around the last couple of days, so that's good. Working up some ideas for things to whittle... thought about carving a new foot but couldn't figure out the right attachment method (duct tape isn't surviving the stream crossings). I'm now thinking of a line of designer toothpicks, or strike-nowhere-match-ends.

Pervasive random kindness... that's the latest idea that's been running through my head for the last couple of days. Why am I so ready to give anything I have to someone that I can help, but feel so uncomfortable when I'm on the receiving end? I haven't figured that one out yet, but the last couple of days there have been a few people that were just too darn helpful. To the point that I wanted to go hide so that they wouldn't feed me to death or go out of their way to help my footsie. I think I'm getting close to just taking any and all help from any kind sap willing to give it. There seems to be a line somewhere between accepting no help and taking all help, but I don't know where that line is. I'm so used to being on the "take none" side that I'm awkward shifting to the other side. I figure if I step on enough toes just to either side of that line, I'll eventually figure out the right balance.

On to getting supplies, and cooling out.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Stratton Maine. ~185 miles in

I've been having a great time. And and arduous time. I was trying to relate mountain height to Mom the other day when I thought about walking up steps in a building. The observatory in the Empire state building is on the 86th floor, at 1050 feet high. My day yesterday included walking 16 miles over rough terrain in rain (making falls on slippery roots and rocks most probable), and climbing up and down the bigelow mountains. That includes about 6000 feet of up, and another 6000 down. Consider walking from Battery park to midtown, up the empire state building, back down, over to battery park, and repeat around 6 times. Then put slippery roots and rocks all over every surface, and do it in the rain. Yesterday alone, I fell about 5 times pretty cleanly. Only two times into bogs, and once on sheer rock with about 10 feet of sliding down into some type of evergreen tree. It gets, at times, exciting, boring, surreal, lonely, frightening, and very, very tiring.

I've been doing some really short walking days due to finding some spectacular chilling spots. Think laying near a sandy beach on the side of a leech infested pond, canoe rowing at dusk, waiting out rain under a several hundred ton boulder resting on a few pebbles, reclining in the shade on a finger of land extending into the center of a lake, rolling in the pine needles in an older growth tree area, dipping feet in a 15 foot-triple-cascade waterfall surrounded by black cliffs, laying down in a tub shaped depression in a fast moving stream, pond shore resting against a hot rock with 25 mile an hour winds blowing off the pond waiting for sunset or sun rise, stretching out on the top of a 3000 foot peak with 360 degree views for hundreds of miles. I'm onto my 4th book, because of all these great spots I keep finding to relax. I'm going slower than some folks, but I think I may be having more fun.

I'm at 149 lbs today after a swell BM (which are arriving promptly at first wake, rather than randomly though the day). I was sitting at 180 -ish a couple months before the start of this trip, and hit a mind numbing 159 when weighed on a friend's bathroom scale a few days before the trip. A friend lent me some pants for this trip, which were a 33 waist, and though they fit just right a few weeks before I left, they were a little lose when I left, and are now dropping to my ankles without something to hold them up. My first pant dropping was just after entering the burg of Caratunk from a 16 - 18 mile day, and setting my pack down. I tried to walk off, then noticed the breeze, luckily before anyone else did.

For those that have eaten with me, you probably remember that my appetite was usually pretty small, often meaning leftovers or wasted food. A week ago, I had breakfast, a large lunch, and a couple hours later a 3 plate dinner plus dessert, followed by a few beers and several sodas, fruit drinks, and more beer. I'm pushing around 4000 calories a day, I think. I've bumped a raman soup, which is usually 200 calories alone, up to around 1200-1600 calories by adding sausage, EVOO, cheese, and any breaded items I can find into the mix. I'm eating several candy bars a day, plus large dinners, but still missing a break even calorie mark. Soon, I'll start eating my muscles unless I can figure out some new ways to reduce calorie burn, or add calories to my meals. While in town, I'm chowing down, and basically packing the pounds on all day long.

I saw myself in a full mirror for the first time in 21 days today. Wow.... I'm missing a bunch of me. My calves look like they are expecting in the next 6 months. My ankles and feet look swollen, and they probably are a bit, but oddly enough, I think they are also just growing muscle and look much bigger than I remember. My inner ankle bone used to stick out, but now is level with the flesh around it (freaky looking after 28 years of seeing that bone protrude, and now vanish). My leg skin looks like I'm into some serious S+M, or at least a klutz. I'm digging my hair though. A week or so between using shampoo makes me look like the cool new york kiddos, even if I smell like the cool new york hobos. The ladies have yet to notice, though the mosquitoes seem to dig it.

Loons! I've been spending the last several nights near ponds just to catch the eerie sound of the loons calling at night. If you haven't heard loon song, freaking hop off this mail and go look it up. It is astonishing, surreal, and well worth only covering 6 miles a day to stick around. I even borrowed a canoe one day to go out on Pierce pond (supposed to have 27 nesting loon families) and wait for them.

Fun trivia; New Jersey, and Massachusetts have Hess gas trucks for sale in department stores. Maine has logging trucks for sale in department stores. $43.89.

I'm still awkward meeting new people, but I am seeing some of that tend to fall away. I'm not yet sure if that is because I'm starting to develop a pattern or list of topics that help ease new folks into conversation or not. Do other people have such a problem getting conversation going? As is, I feel like these starter conversations are rote, and dry feeling, even if they lead into much more interesting topics. Gift of gab... why for didn't thou get jammed into me at birth? I'm getting to be sort of a conversation facilitator. I'm good at bumping into folks and remembering lots of details about them, which I in turn pass on to others. When a couple of people I've remotely introduced bump into each other, they already know what they have in common. It's like conversation kindling, what I'm doing. Luckily, I've been in the lead of the pack, and slowly dropped behind, only to push out a good mileage day to get back with an already known group. This means I get to spread news forward and backward along the trail. This type of news spreading, interestingly enough happens even if I don't make it happen. Somehow we just get to know news that is leading or trailing us by a few days. Sometimes this comes from the trail registers (log books at the shelters); sometimes it comes from travelers in the opposite direction, or speed hikers coming from behind. It's like small town news on the move.

I've become pretty good at rolling cigarettes, grabbing bugs out of the air, starting a fire even when damp (though not so good at the soaking wet fire yet).

It gets lonely... if you know what I mean. Haven't worked out the details of masturbation yet. Toilet paper is too important to waste on such a comfort, leaves probably won't cut it, and you (or at least, I) don't want to carry around any leakage for a week. I've been putting some serious thought into the topic, but have yet to experiment. I knew I was in for a dry spell out here, but this is getting into biblical drought proportions quickly. If I figure out a good solution, I'll fill you in :)

Maybe more later... I'll be here in booming Stratton, ME. waiting for details on the health of the cat, which has had some serious problems recently.

As always, thanks guys! Getting random calls and emails from folks is a real moral boost. This hike is now mostly a mental game and every little bit that you throw at me makes it just a hair easier to keep walking onward.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Monson Maine

So, I've gone a bit over 100 miles in 11 days. I hopped off the trail just about 10 miles north of Monson Maine, and am staying at Shaw's Hostel for a couple days. I picked up a new pair of shoes yesterday which should help me get rid of these deep bruises I've been getting around my ankles. No blisters, but boy do I hurt in fun places! Also bought a pair of underwear... was going commando, but a recent rip in the crotch of a pair of pants has opened my mind to covering the bits of me that tend to hang out.

I can't describe the beauty or hardships I've seen out in the wilderness of Maine, but if I could come even close, just picture walking 50 miles in the rain through bogs, and deep mud puddles, sliding on slippery roots that cover every square inch that isn't covered by rocks, then getting a clear day where you walk up to the top of the empire state building a couple times over, and look out to 100+ miles of mountains fading off into the distance, and green trees as far as the eye can see. I cried a bit on Whitecap mountain, my first clear view from the top of a tall peak. 360 degree views as far as I could see, after days of rain and cloudy conditions. The view was worth that trip, and there are still so many more to come. Pictures can't do it justice; driving to the top just for the view wouldn't do it justice; the walk up from far away made it much more meaningful.

I've carried a few lost items along the way. There have been things that a rational person wouldn't leave behind on purpose. For example, my second day into the 100 mile wilderness I found a food bag left alone at a shelter. No note. About 5-10 pounds of food. Most people should be carrying around 8-10 days of food to get through the 100 miles, and this was 3 or 4 days of food. I figured someone was probably 10 miles south and kicking themselves because they left it behind by accident. I carried the food for around 10-12 miles south before giving up and leaving it at the next shelter. It was throwing my balance off and was killing my hips, knees, and feet with the extra weight. A couple days later I ran into some folks who had the full story of a guy who found the bag and left some of his food because he was hopping off the trail to give up. I wish he had left a note... I would have just eaten the food, rather than carry it!

A question popped into my head as I fell asleep on a real bed last night around 6 other hikers: "who is more important, me or you?" The answer to that question I think tells a lot about how a person behaves. There have been some very self focused folks that I sort of admire, but can't stand because they don't give a shred of care to anyone around them. On the other hand, I've recently dived into knee/thigh high water when a 56 year old hiker slipped off a tree-trunk-bridge face first into the water. She has problems getting up when the pack takes her down, and I was concerned that her head might get shoved under water. She was fine, but I wonder what some of those self centered folks would have done in that same case... probably wouldn't have noticed because they were already trekking down the trail. I'd like to find a happier balance between being self-less and self-full. I am trying to focus more on my wants and needs first, then trying to help others as I can after I'm content. I'm not doing so good at the balancing act just yet. Who knows, maybe I'll be a stuck-up ass-hat when I get back.

I've also been thinking how hard it is to walk all these miles alone. When I don't have anyone to share the moments and stories with, they tend to blend into a murky picture of things past, rather than retaining their brilliance. I was alone for too many days and nights. I really miss just having someone around to help keep events in time organized. I haven't been writing anything down as far as a log, but those things I've shared with others along the trail I tend to remember so much more than those things I haven't had a chance to share. I thank all of you guys for being ears at a distance so some of these things stay more clear in my head. I may start writing things down, but it's like the mountain peak view; those events/sights mean something different to me who lived through the whole context, rather than through just the written word. I thank everyone who has helped out along the way, and are still helping, and I miss almost all (there's some ass-hat-ery for ya!) of you too much to express in writing.

Next mail from cartunk or stratton, I think.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

8 more days until I'm Maine bound

I think everyone on this list knows that I'll be heading to Maine at 3am May 31, trying to walk to Georgia on the Appalachian Trail. (map: )

If you don't want boring details filling your inbox, let me know and I'll take you off the list. I'll probably only be sending a mail out around twice a month, so volume should be low.

In any case, it has been snowing on Mount Katahdin where the trail officially starts, and the folks at Baxter Park are keeping the trails closed, due to unsafe conditions, for the time being. They advise that June 1 may not be a workable start date, but said to call back for an update on Friday. I also have word that the black flies have started coming out. They aren't too bad yet, but definitely ramping up for a fun blood feeding season.

For other stuff: if anyone wants to come pick up:
- 36" (or is it 40?) Phillips TV
- Sony surround sound system
- 5-disc dvd player
- playstation 2 with games
- AV stand big enough for all of the above
- books
- a beer and old cold pizza
- a 19" flat screen CRT (not flat panel! this thing is huge, so bring a sherpa)
- corner desk
- futon couch/bed
- cat
- skin conditions, stomach viruses, and other ailments
- random other items

You've got around 6 more days before I'll be dropping stuff on the street or moving it into storage. You have been warned!