Trail Video

Hi everyone, it’s been a little ever a month since I completed my thru-hike on the AT. I’ve just started combing through all of my videos and pictures and decided to make a video from all of the GoPro pictures I took. I’ll be posting links to more content later so stay tuned and as always, thanks for following along.

Click Here to watch video!

Day 174 (10/1/15)

Day 174 (10/1/15)

Start:  Mt. Katahdin Campground

Finish: Mt. Katahdin Summit

Miles Hiked: 5.2

To Go: 0

Overall: 2189.2

Jeopardy, RockBoat and I woke up early and were on the road for 6:00am. It was cold and windy but fortunately the rain had stopped. Between the hotel and Katahdin Stream Campground were some instances of street flooding and downed tree limbs but it would take much more than that to keep us from reaching Baxter State Park, the home of Mt. Katahdin. After an hour of carefully negotiating dark and wet roads we arrived at the campground. Hikers are expected to sign in at a check station on the trail just after leaving the campground – it looked like we were the first hikers of the morning. I was in high spirits and couldn’t wait to climb 4,000ft to touch the sign on the summit. I have waited nearly 11 years for today and now that it was here it was oddly business as usual. Hiking with Jeopardy and RockBoat today was just like it was before, we made jokes at each others expense, cursed the trail where it was deserved and appreciated the views when given. Due to yesterday’s heavy rainfall, portions of the trail were flowing like a stream and there where even a few small waterfalls created by the normally dry boulders we needed to climb up. Dry feet would be impossible to maintain so we walked freely ignoring the flowing water and puddles. After nearly 2,000ft of climbing, we finally made it above treeline. We took a short break and relished our view of the surrounding mountain peaks below enveloped in clouds. It was truly spectacular.

Halfway up

Halfway up

Although we had been climbing steadily, the real work was about to begin. Mt. Katahdin is one of the hardest climbs on the A.T. and hikers must use every muscle in their bodies to pull themselves up and over steep rocks and boulders. I likened it to Mahoosucs Notch but vertical. If today wasn’t my last day then the climb up Katahdin would have been excruciating. Instead, I was having a great time. The three of us inched our way up the mountain, oftentimes clinging to rebar secured directly to the rock. It was exhausting but we eventually made it to an area known as The Tablelands. The trail here is rocky but relatively flat. It was here that I sent my comrades ahead. I wanted to walk this last mile alone. This hike has been my dream for a long time and within the next hour it would be over.

First white blaze - Springer Mt. Georgia, 3/2/15

First white blaze – Springer Mt. Georgia, 3/2/15

I thought back to my first few days of hiking exactly 7 months ago. I was 40 pounds heavier and had never spent a night in a tent in the woods. I had no clue what I was in store for and I did not think I would make it more than a week or two. Georgia was cold and icy and it kicked my ass every day, it contained only 70 miles of trail but it took me 11 days to get out of it. Now, it would only take me three. It was in Georgia that I met my first hiking group of Billygoat, Hula, Blazer, Made-It and Carbomb. I would eventually hike over 500 miles with these amazing people and I will never forget the times we spent together on the trail – especially the karaoke night in Gatlinburg and hiker-trash open mic nights with the Bad Ass Bubble in Hot Springs, NC and Damascus, VA.

Blazer, Hula, Poboy, Made-It, Carbomb and Billygoat - Silers Bald, Smoky Mountains

Blazer, Hula, Poboy, Made-It, Carbomb and Billygoat – Silers Bald, Smoky Mountains

By Daleville, VA I was the last one left and had just completed a two week hiking session with my dad, Crawdad. Although the trail may have been a little harder than he anticipated, he hiked his ass off and I think he had a great time. The time I was able to spend with my dad on the A.T. is two weeks of my life I will never forget; I will also never forget how terrified Crawdad was of contracting Noro at 4 Pines Hostel in Catawba, VA!

Poboy and Crawdad

Poboy and Crawdad

It wasn’t long after Crawdad left that I hooked up with Team Vortex members Scooby, Murphy’s Law, Mile Marker, Cookie Monster, Skipper and Goosebumps and then a little later Blade and The Cuts members Click, Pie, Blade and Cheesebeard. I would hike on and off with these fabulous people for the next several hundred miles.

Team Vortex - Skipper, Scooby, Mile Marker, Murphy's Law, Poboy and Cookie Monster

Team Vortex – Skipper, Scooby, Mile Marker, Murphy’s Law, Poboy and Cookie Monster

After my weeklong trip to D.C. with my wife I became woefully homesick and contemplated quitting on an hourly basis. I hiked with tears in my eyes for most of my time through the Shenandoahs. Had it not been for my reunion with Click, Pie, Blade and Cheesebeard and D.G., I honestly don’t think I would have been able to keep going. You guys raised my spirits and kept me in the game – Thank You! After Blade and The Cuts left the trail for a weeklong trip to New York, I hiked on alone but with a new confidence.

Blade and the Cuts - Blade, Pie, Click and Cheesebeard

Blade and the Cuts – Blade, Pie, Click and Cheesebeard

Eventually, I reached Deleware Water Gap and met Miles, Roker, RockBoat and Jeopardy. By this time I had transformed from a novice, pudgy hiker that liked low mile days and being clean into a badass hiking robot capable of knocking out consistent 20 miles days, relishing the funk a week of hiking without a shower creates. I felt unstoppable and able to walk the remaining miles on my own but with such company as these guys along with Lightning and Porkchop who the hell would want to? In the same breath we cursed the trail and laughed at each other; the miles passed faster than ever.

Roker, RockBoat, Jeopardy, Poboy and Miles

Roker, RockBoat, Jeopardy, Poboy and Miles

By the time I finished the dreaded White Mountains of NH I felt like I might actually finish this hike. Fate would throw a curveball however and I had to leave my friends and the trail behind. I had come so far and tried, unsuccessfully, to reason with myself that the miles hiked was good enough. While I was home, I thought about the trail several times an hour and my absence made me sick. Luckily, I was able to get back after several weeks. I was now alone for good, everyone I knew had either dropped off or summited. I didn’t care though, I had only Maine left to hike and come hell or high water, I would touch that damned sign on the top of Mt. Katahdin.

Maine was not easy but I hiked hard for 19 days and now found myself just a few feet away from reaching my goal. I stood next to the sign and stared at it for several seconds before extending a shaking hand. The moment my palm made contact with the worn sign my thru-hike was over. RockBoat and Jeopardy congratulated me as we took some summit photos. Eventually we would have to hike back down but for now, we were more than content to sit on the summit, our thru-hikes complete, and laugh.

I write this last post from the safe and warm confines of my home in Louisiana. I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to follow my dream. Now that it’s over, I can’t wait to get back to the normal day to day of work, cutting my lawn and having a two-day weekend. My feet are a full size larger than when I started, my body is sore from head to toe and I can’t walk without pain in my knees. Over the last seven months I have not slept uninterrupted for more than 4 hours. I wake up several times a night, even since I’ve been home, for no reason. During a thru-hike, hikers commonly experience periods of near starvation only to be followed by absolute indulgence. A thru-hike cannot be healthy to the body but, to the soul, it is a healthy and beautiful thing.

Finally!

Finally!

Finally!

Finally!

Finally

Finally

A happy Poboy

A happy Poboy

Jeopardy, Poboy and RockBoat on the summit.

Jeopardy, Poboy and RockBoat on the summit.

Jeopardy, Poboy and RockBoat on the summit.

Jeopardy, Poboy and RockBoat on the summit.

I would like to send everyone reading this a small token of my appreciation for following this journal. If you would be kind enough to email me your mailing address at nfishr5@yahoo.com I would like to send you something in the mail. I promise not to sell your information to Apple or some crazy guy in Russia!

Although the hiking is over, my updates on this blog are not. Over the next few weeks I plan on uploading some video and more pictures. Feel free to remove yourself from the automatic email updates A very special thanks to everyone one of you for reading along and following this crazy adventure. Your comments were an inspiration and knowing I had such a big support team  kept me moving. I also want to thank all of the amazing people I met on the trail with an extra big shout out to RockBoat and Jeopardy – thanks guys, you are awesome. To my family and friends that sent me care packages – when I knew I had a care package waiting for me in a town, I hiked with a smile just knowing you cared enough to actually send me something. Just because I’m back home doesn’t mean you have to stop sending me food though! To my wife, Leigh – we did it. You were with me every step of the way and I know this wasn’t easy on you but you supported me every step of the way and believed in my dream. I love you so much it hurts sometimes but if you get sick of me being home please don’t make me hike again! I love you all, thanks again!

Days 170-173 (9/27/15-9/30/15)

Day 170 (9/27/15)

Start:  Carl A Newhall Lean-To

Finish: Antlers Campsite

Miles Hiked: 26.8

To Go: 51.8

Overall: 2137.4

Today would be my last day of big climbs until Katahdin. I had a long day planned but the first hurdle was getting out of my bag. The temperature was close to freezing again last night and thin layer of frost covered the ground. I delayed the inevitable as long as I could and finally started hiking around 7:30. Hiking uphill is a good way to warm up and the trail was happy to oblige. First up was Gulf Hagas Mountain followed by West Peak, Hay Mountain and finally White Cap Mountain. From the north side of White Cap I could see Katahdin resting miles away. I was getting closer and knew I would be there soon. 

 View of Katahdin from WhiteCap 
I descended White Cap thinking my day was basically over and that the next 20 miles would coast by. I was wrong. Although it wasn’t very long, the climb up Little Boardman Mountain had me huffing and puffing. I was cursing the AT every step of the way for making me hike up this PUD. It seems the closer I get, the harder the miles are to pass. I think some of this has to do with me hiking solo. I haven’t seen another NOBO for a few days and when I do, I blow right by them. The good news is that I will not be hiking alone for much longer. In a few days I’ll be joined by two familiar faces and as of now, the plan is for the three of us to summit Katahdin on Wednesday.  

I made it to Antlers Campsite about 30 minutes before dark. There were about 15 people already tented there to watch the lunar eclipse tonight. Antlers is one of the most beautiful settings for a campsite I’ve seen so far. It’s positioned on the edge of Jo Mary Lake and protected by surrounding mountains. As I was down by the waters edge, I noticed a glowing ball rising from the end of the lake. It was the moon.

  
 Dusk was setting in and the full moon was amazingly illuminated. I dropped my water filter and sat down. For thiry minutes I watched the moon rise over the lake. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I will never forget it. A few hours later, the bright moon turned dark during the eclipse but I didn’t notice, I was asleep in my tent. Tomorrow would be another long day.   

 

Day 171 (9/28/15)

Start: Antlers Campsite

Finish: Rainbow Lake Campsite

Miles Hiked: 25.5

To Go: 26.3

Overall: 2162.9

I woke up early and was hiking by 6:30. My day started off great and made my first 8 miles in 2.5 hours. I was hoping to keep this fast pace all day after looking at my profile map which showed reletively flat trail. Looks can be deceiving because the trail turned out to be anything but flat. It was the rockiest, rootiest and muddiest trail I’ve had to face so far. Not only was my pace hurt, my body hurt as well. The hard rocks and roots really took a toll on my feet and I was in a lot of pain. 

 View of Katahdin from AT 
These last few miles won’t go easy. I was really hurting and thought about calling it a day after only 14 miles. I had to keep going though if I was to make my Wednesday deadline with the guys. I hadn’t seen any other hikers all day and felt like I was the only person out here. I popped in a podcast and got moving. I hadn’t listened to any podcasts or music in a few days and it made all the difference. Finding ways to get myself out of my own head is the only way to pass the time. A short climb up Nesuntabunt Mountain provided a great view of Katahdin just 16 linear miles away. Getting closer!

  
 I was still listening to my RadioLab podcast when I spotted another bull moose in the woods to my right. This one was smaller than the one from the day before but at least I was able to get a quick picture before it moved on. 

  
I made the additional 8 miles to my campsite where I was happy to see several hikers I had met off and on already there. Apparently, some of them skipped over the last few days of trail. I haven’t missed a white blaze yet and no way was I going to start now. A few of us were down by the lake when I noticed a crawfish in the water by my feet. I instantly thought of my friends and family back home and all the crawfish boils I missed this year. I love getting together with everyone and can’t wait to be home. I’ll be back soon!

 No Crawdudes were hurt during this photo shoot 

Day 172 (9/29/15)

Start: Rainbow Lake Campsite

Finish: Katahdin Stream Campground

Miles Hiked: 21.1

To Go: 5.2

Overall: 2184

 A man fishing in the rain 
It rained overnight but I managed to stay dry in my tent. I’m not really sure how the weather got in a few weeks ago but it really doesn’t matter now because last night would be my last camping out here. It was still raining as I packed up and moved out. I quietly made my way past the three other tenters at the campsite. Rainy days usually keep hikers in their tents longer in the morning but today would be my last full day of hiking on the AT and I just wanted to get it over with. For the last 7 months I have thought about today and how I might feel. I suppose most thru-hikers have Katahdin on their minds while limping these last few miles but I just couldn’t wait to get to Abol Bridge Campground and get a Coke. The 100 Mile Wilderness ends at the campground and I was happy to finally be out. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have great weather over the last 2 1/2 weeks so when I didnt get a view of Katahdin from Rainbow Ledges I didn’t mind. I also didn’t mind sloshing around and falling in the mud twice because within a few short hours it would all be over. I made it to Abol Bridge Campground and got my soda. I was surprised and happy to see Rocky Mountain High walking around. The last time I saw her was back in VA and we spent a few minutes catching up before I moved on. She summited a few weeks ago and now works for the campground, it was great seeing a familiar face. 

  
I’d be seeing two more familiar faces within an hour or two, I just had 9 more rainy and muddy miles to go. It turned out to be the fastest 9 miles of my entire hike. I would be getting picked up from Katahdin Stream Campground and driven to a warm hotel room; I was practically running down the trail. I didn’t care when I slipped off a rock and fell knee deep in a stream; I didn’t care the weather was ruining amazing views of Katahdin while I hiked – I just wanted to see those two faces. I made it to the campground a few minutes early and changed out of my wet clothes into some slightly drier and less dirty ones. Just as I was finishing up, a White Subaru pulled into the parking lot and out stepped the two most beautiful faces I’ve seen since returning to the trail – those of RockBoat and Jeopardy. These two summited over a month ago and now they were back to rehike Katahdin with me. You meet all kinds of people on the AT, some you never want to meet again and others you come to regard as great friends. Well, the jury is still out on these two guys but I was happy to see them nonetheless. We caught up on the last few weeks and checked into a nearby hotel. We hope to summit in the morning but the weather is looking horrible. Fingers crossed.

  
Day 173 (9/30/15)
Start: Katahdin Stream Campground 

Finish: Katahdin Stream Campground

Miles Hiked: 0

To Go: 5.2

Overall: 2184

It rained heavily all day and flooded parts of town. My summit would have to wait one more day. 

  Eating hotdogs in the hotel  

Day 166-169 9/23/15-9/26/15

Day 166 9/23/15

Start: Caratunk, ME

Finish: Moxie Bald Mountain Lean-To

Miles Hiked: 18.8

To Go: 132.4

Overall Miles Hiked: 2056.8

I stayed at the Sterling Inn in Carutunk and definitely recommend it to anyone visiting the area. It’s very clean and has several room options ranging from simple bunks to larger rooms with King beds. The Inn houses hikers, rafters and fisherman year round and is run by a friendly man named Eric. After eating my complimentary breakfast, Eric drove me back to the trailhead just a few miles away. A fog had settled in overnight and the woods were damp and quiet. The trail followed a series of streams for the first few miles before finally taking me up Pleasant Pond Mountain. By the time I reached it’s summit, the fog had dissipated and the sky was crystal clear. 

  
For once I had no where to be or goal to reach so I sat down and enjoyed my view. There was just a slight breeze and the temperature was in the upper 60’s, life was good. I only have a few more days out here so I am trying to savor every second. I know I complained a lot during the last 5 months of hiking but overall this has been an amazing experience and I actually think I will miss it. The trail has been a little easier as of late and I’ve been able to make pretty good miles. My only other climb of the day was up Moxie Bald Mountain. The top of the mountain isn’t a true bald like those in VA but there weren’t many trees and I was able to score an amazing 360 degree view. 

  

  

I climbed down from the bald and arrived at my shelter for the evening. The shelter is on the edge of Bald Mountain Pond and it made for a great setting. After dinner I walked down to the lake’s edge to watch the sun set over the surrounding mountains. A beaver was swimming nearby and there were several loons in the lake making their various crazy sounds. I wanted to bottle the moment, Maine keeps getting better and better!

 
   

Day 167 9/24/15

Start: Moxie Bald Mountain Lean-To

Finish: Monson, ME

Miles Hiked: 17.6

To Go: 114.5

Overall Miles Hiked: 2074.7

 
Moxie Bald Lean-To 

I woke up early just as the sun was coming up over the lake. It was a beautiful setting for a sunrise and I let the moment set my mood for the day. 

   

 The trail was pretty level today and I made really good time; with beautiful weather and good trail I was feeling great. After a few hours I came to the Piscataquis River. In order to get across, I had to take my boots off and walk through calf deep frigid water. It was actually quite refreshing and I ate an early lunch on the other side. 
  

  
I was feeling great and didn’t think anything could possibly make me feel better but a few hours later I was proved wrong. I was walking down a hill when I heard something heavy moving quickly away for me. I looked up and saw a mother moose and her calf looking back at me not 40 yards away. I slowly took off my pack and got out my camera. I was fortunate enough to get one picture of them before they moved off. I’ve been seeing moose sign since Massachusetts but had given up hope of seeing one. What an awesome day!  
  

  
I made it to the highway to Monson and got a hitch to Shaws hostel. It is run by Poet who thru-hiked in 2008. He went back to his high school teaching job after his hike but knew one day he would be back in one capacity or another; now he runs one of the better hostels on the trail with his wife and young children. I absolutely recommend Shaws to any future hikers. I’ll be entering the hundred mile wilderness tomorrow and will need to carry about five days worth of food. The wilderness is regarded as one of the most remote sections of the trail but I don’t care because as soon as I am out of it I’ll be staring up at Katahdin! 
Day 168 9/25/15

Start: Monson, ME

Finish: Long Pond Stream Lean-To

Miles Hiked: 15.1

To Go: 114.5

Overall Miles Hiked: 2074.7

 
Shaws famous blueberry pancakes 

I got a ride back to the trailhead and said goodbye to Poet. Shaws is the longest running hostel on the A.T. and after eating their famous hiker breakfast I see why. As soon as I entered the woods I saw a sign cautioning hikers about the remoteness of the area I was about to enter called The Hundred Mile Wilderness. It usually takes thru-hikers 6 days to get through it and, due to it’s lack of cell signals and roads, there aren’t many options for help. 

  
After a few miles of hiking, I arrived at Little Wilson Falls and decided it was a great place for lunch. I had only done about 7 miles and I was pretty beat. 

  
The trail today is what I refer to as “sawtooth trail” because the trail profile in my guidebook looks like the ridges on a saw blade. These up,down, up, down stretches of trail give me the most trouble because it’s hard to get in any kind of rythm. After a few more miles I came to Big Wilson Stream and was forced to take off my boots in order to ford it.

  
 By the time I reached my shelter I was completely worn out. I was almost too tired to cook and eat, but just almost!

Day 169 9/26/15

Start: Long Pond Stream Lean-To

Finish: Carl A Newhall Lean To

Miles Hiked: 20.8

To Go: 78.6

Overall Miles Hiked: 2110.6

Temperatures got really cold overnight and there was frost on the ground when I woke up. As soon as I left the frozen shelter, I started hiking up Barren Mountain. Barren mountain is one of two big climbs in the wilderness and it is regarded as the harder of the two. It was 1600 feet and not too steep so I actually made short work of it. There is not much of a view from the top unless you have the courage to climb the old rusty fire tower on top. I decided to pass and sit down below to eat my leftover pizza slices from a few nights ago instead. Trail pizza is the best pizza! 

  
After Barren Mountain came Fourth Mountain,  Mount Three and a Half, Columbus Mountain and finally Chairback Mountain. I’m not sure what the deal is with the funny names of them but they were pretty tough. My favorite of the day was chairback because you were hiking along it’s open Ridgeline for about half a mile and the views are great the entire way. Unfortunately, the descent off Chairback is seriously steep and very rocky, it took forever. I finally made it off Chairback and had six more miles of gently rising trail. I was able to get in a good hiking rhythm and knock out the remaining miles in short order. Just before reaching the shelter I heard something moving away from me in the woods. It was a huge bull moose; I tried to get a picture but it was moving away faster than I could walk. Really cool!

  

Day 165 9/22/15

Start: East Flagstaff Lake Campsite

Finish: Caratunk, ME

Miles Hiked: 19.1

To Go: 151.2

Overall Miles Hiked: 2038

  
Maine keeps on bringing the surprises. Last night at 12:13, I was awoken to the inquisitive footsteps of a small animal. I have no doubt it was enticed by my food bag hanging a paltry seven feet above ground in a nearby tree. I was only slightly alarmed and wrote off the footsteps thinking they belonged to a harmless fox. Sleep went in and out as did the footsteps until I decided I had had enough. I got out of my warm bag and retrieved my food bag. Secured in my pack, it was protected by the vestibule of my tent only inches away from me. I went back to sleep thinking the small animal would not have the courage to investigate further. I was right. But another, larger animal did only a few hours later. I heard it breathing maybe 15 to 20 feet away as it circled my tent. Judging by the sound it made moving compared to the first animal, I feel safe saying this was no fox. For the first time since Georgia, I was scared inside the usually safe confines of my tent. I did not move; the beast continued circling. At this moment I was scared, when the mystery animal charged my tent, I was terrified. It came to within a few feet before I yelled out and clapped my hands. I heard it run away and break a few branches in it’s retreat. I reached for my headlamp and turned it on before securing it to my shaking forehead.  I still heard the animal moving away from me as I unzipped my tent and peered out into the darkness. For some crazy reason, I actually had to restrain myself from running after it. In my excited stupor, I had emerged from my tent and was now standing about 10 feet away in a thicket of woods dimly lit by my inadequate headlamp. I was shaking from anger more than fear. I got back in my tent and prepared myself should it return. I slept with my headlamp on for the rest  of the morning. I honestly didn’t know what my visitor was. I’d assume a bear but maybe it was just a steroid induced chipmunk. Either way, I didn’t sleep well and decided to pack up and go just before light. I actually hiked with my headlamp on for about 30 minutes until it was light enough to see without it. I was planning on leaving early anyway because I had to catch the Kennebec River ferry (a canoe) between 2 and 4 PM and it was 19 miles away. 

   
 The trail today was rather uneventful and mostly flat. I made 15 miles by noon, a personal best, and arrived at the ferry crossing a few minutes before two. Hikers used to have to cross the river on foot but due to a few instances of hikers drowning, the ATC runs a free ferry service across the river now. I was more than happy to hop in as the town of Caratunk lay just on the other side of the river. Once across, I was able to resupply, shower and enjoy a calorie laden hamburger at the Sterling Inn.

 
Kennebec River Crossing – note the white blaze in the canoe 

Day 164 9/21/15

Start: Stratton, ME

Finish: East Flagstaff Lake Campsite

Miles Hiked: 17.9

To Go: 170.3

Overall Miles Hiked: 2018.9

I was out of the hostel early and was hiking by 7:00. The trail out of Stratton is flat for about 2 miles then starts going up. Just before the climb is a sign about a missing hiker, Geraldine “Inchworm” Largay, who disappeared on the Appalachian Trail around this spot on 7/22/13. There has been no sign of her since. 

  
I thought about Inchworm and what might’ve happened to her most of the morning. As soon as I finished my near 3000 foot climb up Bigalow Mountain, my attention turned. My goal of hiking the Appalachian Trail was born over 10 years ago and since then I have only seen Mt. Katahdin in my dreams, until now.  There, far off to my Northeast, stood Katahdin, taller than any surrounding mountains. I sat down on a rock and just stared. I was still 180 trail miles away but I would be there soon, and I couldn’t wait. 

   
 

Just barely visible in the center of the photo lies Katahdin

As I descended I took one more look and said,  “see you soon”. In a way, I hated her for making me leave my family and friends, for causing me so much pain, but I hiked on nonetheless. It’s a crazy feeling to hate something so much yet love it at the same time. 

 
Bigalow Mtn

 Avery peak

After Biglow mountain was another short climb up to Avery peak. Avery peaks summit is at 4090 feet and it would be the last time I would be over 4000 feet until I summit Katahdin. It would also be one of my last big climbs. The trail will begin to get a little flatter and I am looking forward to the change and bigger miles it will bring. The last hurdle of the day was over Little Biglow mountain but it wasn’t as steep as it’s big brother and I made good time. I was intending on staying a little Bigelow lean to do but decided to hike another 2.3 miles to East Flagstaff Lake campsite. I’m currently in my tent overlooking the lake and it’s absolutely beautiful, I wish you were all here with me. 

  
Sites like this will bring me back to Maine above all the other Appalachian Trail states. It is beautiful and I’m sad that I have no one to share it with. I guess I’m a little lonely but knowing I’ll be home soon helps the loneliness pass. I know I won’t have many of these kind of sites left so I’m trying to enjoy it as much as possible.

  

Day 163 9/20/15

Start: Stratton, ME

Finish: Stratton, ME

Miles Hiked: 0

To Go: 188.2

Overall Miles Hiked: 2001

It rained all night and most of the morning. I was packed and ready to hike but by the time everything cleared out it was almost noon. I wanted to keep my feet as dry as possible and figured a day off for my knees would not hurt so I decided to zero. I spent most of my day working on the blog and talking to some SOBOs at the hostel. I’m the only NOBO here so they have been asking me questions about gear and the trail and I am more than happy to help. One of the guys is named James and here is a story about how he got his trail name. 

  
James – Sensodyne 

One month ago James was sitting in the back of a crowded early morning bus heading to the base of Katahdin for his first day of hiking on the A.T. No one was speaking as they tried to fight back inevitable first-day jitters. James was picturing his first steps on what would be an epic adventure. He had been preparing for this moment for the last three years. He figured it would take him five and half hours to reach the summit and by that time it would be bright and sunny out. “Better put on sunscreen”, he thought as he reached for the small container with no label he found in the hiker box last night. He fumbled for it in the dark for a moment or so before locating the container at the bottom of his dry bag. He unscrewed the lid and squeezed a heaping portion of the substance into his open palm. James began liberally applying it to his face, neck and arms. He thought it was unusually thick as far as other sunscreens were concerned and that it smelled different but he forged ahead nonetheless. It was at about this time the James overheard the older gentleman sitting in front of him. The older man was asking, to no one in particular, “what the heck is that smell? It smells like, like…” James’ olfactory senses kicked into gear and he suddenly knew the answer to the old man’s inquiry. As James’ eyes closed and the blood began to leave his face, the old man completed his thought, “it smells like toothpaste”. James would now be known as Sensodyne. He said he just assumed the container was sunscreen and had never checked. 

 
Hiker town diet 

Day 162 9/19/15

Start: Poplar Ridge Lean-To

Finish: Stratton, ME

Miles Hiked: 21.5

To Go: 188.2

Overall Miles Hiked: 2001

  
 I didn’t sleep very well last night so as soon as the sun came up I broke down camp and started hiking. I had heard from several day hikers that we were supposed to get some rain tonight and I definitely didn’t want another repeat of Monday night. I was planning on hiking around 14 miles and then going into Stratton tomorrow but with the news of the weather I decided to push it and put in a big day in hopes of making Stratton late in the afternoon. My first big climb was up Lone Mountain but thankfully most of the trail was well graded only leaving me with 1000 foot or so of steep climbing.  I stopped at Spalding Mtn. Lean-to for lunch. I still had 13 1/2 miles left to go, eight of which would be hard hiking over Spalding, Sugarloaf, South and North Crocker mountains. By the time I reach the summit of North Crocker mountain I was pretty wiped out and thankfully only had 5 miles of nice and easy downhill trail left. 

  
If the weather wasn’t supposed to deteriorate later, I would not have pushed myself so hard today. My knees are still hurting and I have developed some blisters on my feet but the thought of having another wet night in my tent scared me. I’m sure I will encounter rain again on the trail but if I can get into town and avoid it, I will. You may be wondering why I didn’t just sleep in a shelter – there weren’t any in between my lunch shelter and Stratton. A while before town I stopped dead in my tracks. In the middle of the trail was the 2000 mile marker. 

  
I have now officially height over 2000 miles on the Appalachian Trail. I checked into the Stratton Hotel after getting a quick hitch. By the time I ate and showered it was time for bed.

Day 161 9/18/15

Start: ME 4

Finish: Poplar Ridge Shelter

Miles Hiked: 10.7

To Go: 209.7

Overall Miles Hiked: 1979.5

  

After saying goodbye to the fine folks over at the Farmhouse in Rangeley, it was time to hike. The weather was still holding out and it looked like it would be another clear day. I was excited to get going. For the third day in a row, I chose not to wear my knee braces because of the blisters and I could definitely tell the difference with them on or off. After entering the woods on the other side of Highway 4, I came to the Piazza Rock Lean-To and campsite. It was probably one of the nicest campsites I’ve seen and hosts a nearby trail that takes you through some caves. I would’ve liked to stay and investigate but I really wanted to take advantage of the good weather. There’s also a cool looking rock formation called Piazza Rock. I took a picture under it before moving on. 

  
Most of my day would be spent climbing Saddleback Mountain. The summit was amazing and looked similar to Franconia Ridge and Mt. Lafayette. From Saddleback, which was all above tree line, I could easily make out the trail over the other two mountains I would summit today, The Horn and Saddleback Junior. They lay just ahead in the distance and reminded me so much of the whites I enjoyed so much.

  
 The views from The Horn and Saddleback Junior gave me a clear view of the Bigalow mountain range which I would be entering in a few days. Although I couldn’t see it, Katahdin rests several miles on the other side. I’m getting closer with every step but still try not to think about it. I really want to make better miles than what I have been averaging but I just don’t have it in me. The trail is still really tough and I’m worried about how much my knees can take. For now, 13 mile days will just have to do.

  

Day 160 9/17/15

Start: ME 17

Finish: ME 4

Miles Hiked: 13.2

To Go: 220.4

Overall Miles Hiked: 1968.8

  
I decided to stay another night at the hostel to rest up. My knees are still giving me trouble and I haven’t been able to wear my braces for a few days because they gave me painful blisters behind my knees. It’s never easy. Luckily the trail today was pretty easy. I never had a climb up more than a few hundred feet and it was relatively level. I walked across the edge of a few ponds hoping to catch a glimpse of a moose but no such luck. I finished my hike in the early afternoon and got a ride back to the hostel. I used my extra time to ice my knees and eat ice cream.