Monday, September 27, 2010

The 100-Mile Non-wilderness and Katahdin!

Now that I've been home for a week, it's time to tell you about the last part of my journey. 

We resupplied for the last time in Monson, ME.  By this late in the hike, resupplying was generally easy because we had finally figured out how to do it right.  Unfortunately, we were resupplying for an unknown about of time.  We weren't sure exactly how many days it would take to get to Katahdin.  The 100 miles past Monson are known as the 100-mile wilderness because there is supposedly nowhere to resupply for 100 miles. 

So we entered the 100 Mile Wilderness with a lot of food and a lot of energy.  This was the home stretch! And everyone had said we would have no problem making up time.  That was a little misleading, but we were still on schedule. It turned out to be a blast and one of the most enjoyable stretches of the hike.  The first few days were slow-going because we had so much food in our packs.  At this point in the hike I was probably eating only 2,500-3,500 calories a day, which doesn't seem like that much for the amount of exercise we were doing, but 10 days worth of that food is heavy!

Day Tripper and I didn't see many other hikers the first few days in the 100 mile wilderness. It was nice to have a little "solitude" and to have a shelter to ourselves... or so we thought.  One night settled into our sleeping bags at dark and we were surprised to see hikers coming into camp one-by-one until almost 10:00.  It was the crew that we had left behind in Rangeley.  They were doing 25+ mile days and really, really hating their lives and the trail.  They were trying to get the trail over as soon as possible, while we were trying to enjoy our last few days.  The extra 5 miles they were doing made a difference- they couldn't take side trails to see ponds, they couldn't stop to scout for moose, and they couldn't ride the boat across the lake to White House Landing. And they never wanted to hike or camp again, whereas I went hiking within a week of coming home.

After a few days we stopped at White House Landing, the only place to resupply in the 100-mile wilderness.  It is basically a bunkhouse with a restaurant, but the novelty is that there is no way to walk there from the trail.  You get to the dock and sound a foghorn so the owner of the place drives a motorboat over to pick you up.  We sounded the foghorn and somehow that turned on a downpour, so the restaurant was a nice short break from the rain.  We didn't spend the night there but we did each eat 1/2 of a pizza, half of a 1 lb hamburger, and half of a pint of Ben and Jerry's.  And I still wasn't full!

In the "wilderness" the terrain was difficult for the first two days, but then it leveled out and we had no problem going 15-20 miles per day.  The only thing that slowed us down a little is that some sections of the trail in Maine are very muddy.  The Maine Appalachian Trail has constructed "bog boards" or wooden planks over the mud in some sections.  I think the main purpose of them isn't to help us as much as it is to prevent trail erosion.  Well, when it rains those things get very slippery!  I was constantly slipping off of them, but mostly landing on my feet.  Except once when I didn't, and I landed on my knees, elbow-deep in mud. Fortunately it was raining so I get cleaned off pretty quickly!

We learned that the 100-mile wilderness is not actually a wilderness at all.  The area is mostly a national forest (I think?) and that means that the resources are meant to be protected but not completely conserved.   That meant that we heard (and saw!) logging trucks every day.  There is even a railroad that goes through the 100-mile wilderness!  But we did see our third moose.  It was swimming in a river so it couldn't run away from us, so we finally got some good moose pictures.

After leaving the "wilderness" we spent the night at Abol Bridge Campsite, where our old friends Conan, Backwards, and Skippy were waiting for us! They had taken a zero day to wait for us so we could summit Katahdin together.  They had also hitched to town and gotten food for the night and champagne for Katahdin!  So we had a campfire with an amazing view of Katahdin, hot dogs on the fire, and a little bit of beer.  Or maybe it was a lot of beer, because somehow we missed hearing a bear sneak into Skippy's food bag 100 yards away and steal Ramen and Poptarts.  We started calling him the "ninja bear" because we never even saw him do it!  Good thing we were all sick of Ramen and Poptarts after 2100+ miles!

The next day we walked together into Baxter State Park, the home of Katahdin.  The "state park" is not actually park of the Maine State Park system.  It was established by a private trust set up by the late, great Governor Percival Proctor Baxter.  So it is independently run and has some strict rules- like limits on the number of thru-hikers who can stay there.  You also have to leave to summit Katahdin by 10 am in September, and things like that.  But I am a rule-follower, so everything worked out fine.

It rained all night, but the weather report predicted that it would stop raining at 8 am.  So we left at 8 am for our last day of hiking.  The crew included Conan, Backwards, Day Tripper, Skippy, Skippy's girlfriend Alisha, and me.  And just as predicted, it stopped raining.  It was a "Class II" day, meaning that "hiking above treeline was not recommended", but we were trusting that the weather would get better throughout the day.

The climb up Katahdin is ~4000 feet of elevation gain over 5.2 miles.  For those of you who don't hike, I will translate.  That is STEEP.  People say that it is the hardest climb of the entire trail, but it was made easier by the fact that we left a lot of stuff at the Ranger Station. In fact, I think I was the only one to carry my own backpack and not a loner daypack.  After the ascent, I saw why.  There was a lot of very technical bouldering and climbing on rebar that would have been difficult with a heavy pack throwing you off balance.

The climb up took about 3 hours, but honestly, it was FUN.  The clouds cleared so we had amazing views, and it was a blast.  It was more than I thought it would be.  We got above treeline and the trail leveled out a little.  There were at least four false summits so it was hard to be sure where the top actually was, but finally we saw a group of people and knew that they were at the top.  So, we reached the summit of Katahdin.  It wasn't windy, it was just a little cold, and the clouds would move in and out giving us occasional views of the valleys below.  There were about a dozen day hikers at the top, and they all applauded for us. 

At the summit we had a great time taking pictures and enjoying the view- taking it all in.  We sang Happy Birthday to Skippy because it was his 30th.  Conan and Backwards sprayed each other with champagne and we drank what was left in the bottle. I thought that I would cry a lot, but I didn't cry until Backwards started crying.  It was more of a happy crying than a sad crying.  It was overwhelming to be at a place that I had dreamed about for as long as I could remember.  The feeling that I felt most was sheer joy.   I couldn't stop smiling.  I felt lucky to have had the opportunity and time for such an amazing journey.  I felt blessed to be with people I love so much in a place that will always be sacred to us.

So then we turned around and went home.  The hike down was kind of annoying, because there is no "extra credit".  We were done hiking the AT, but we still had to get back to the parking lot.  Also, I didn't mind the steepness going up but by the time we got down my knees were really hurting.  That was a sign that it was time to stop hiking for a while.  Overall, I will say with confidence that so far the day that I summitted Katahdin has been the single best day of my life, and hiking the AT was the best choice I ever made.  I am still processing thoughts on everything that happened and all we accomplished, so I will have one more closing blog post for you all.  Thanks for reading and being part of my journey.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Life's Not Always Rainbows and Butterflies, Except for Sometimes

The remainder of southern Maine before the 100 mile wilderness was amazing.  We climbed some big mountains- Saddleback, Sugarloaf, and the Bigelows.  We crossed the 2000-mile mark.  We took a day off in Stratton, ME to weather out the rain of Hurricane Earl.  The weather cooled. We ate lunch in a canoe in a lake, we swam near sand beaches, and we saw another moose.  We ate flapjacks at a remote camp and then rode across the Kennebec River in one of the the country's last man-powered ferrys.  We began to truly enjoy ourselves in a way we hadn't since Virginia.

Oddly enough, even after the difficulties of the beginning of Maine, this was my favorite section of trail.   The Bigelow Mountains in particular were are favorite mountain range there. It had a lot to do with the fact that it was such a beautiful day when we were there.  It was raining in the morning, and as we reached treeline we saw one of the most beautiful views of the trail complete with double rainbows.  This sounds corny, but it was really magical and in that moment I realized that it was all worth it.  All of the miles were worth it for little moments like that.

The Bigelows were the last 4000+ ft mountains before the 100 mile wilderness, which also added to our elation.  I think that is where it really, truly sunk in that I was going to make it to Katahdin.  Supposedly there is a view of Katahdin from Avery Peak in the Bigelows.  There were so many mountains visible to the north that we had no clue which one it was, but that is where I realized that it was actually there.  It was not some imaginary peak of trail lore.  It didn't exist only in my dreams- it was there, and we were going to climb it. My faith in myself was restored and I realized that was what I was missing all along. 

Take-home point? Life is beautiful and so is Maine. Sometimes you just have to endure difficulties to be awed.


The House of Cards Collapses in Southern Maine

To all you inquiring minds who are dying to know- I summited Katahdin and finished hiking the Appalachian Trail shortly after noon on September 17!!  To backtrack, lots of exciting and important things happened in Maine, so here goes-

The last few miles of New Hampshire included a lot of boulder-hopping, but we trogged through the obstacle course riding on the excitement of crossing into our last state.  We got to the border and saw that the famous blue "The Way Life Should Be" sign was gone.   So, no picture with that sign! Shortly after entering Maine we ran into some southbounders who told us that the trail ahead was an obstacle course, but if we hurried and gave it all we had then MAYBE we could make it in time for Day Tripper's deadline.  He needed to be back for work by September 20, which would be very reasonable if we hadn't taken time off to go to a wedding...

So we stopped at the nearest shelter to evaluate our plan.  It seemed like we had everything under control, and if we had fresh legs it would have been ok.  But after almost five months and almost 2000 miles, my body was completely broken down.  We had just survived the White Mountains but they had left me more fatigued than I had ever been in my life.  I was so exhausted I could have slept for days, but instead we kept going just as hard as we had been.

The beginning of Southern Maine was a near-breaking point.  Summer 2010 has been abnormally warm on the East Coast, and another freak heat wave was occurring in Maine.  Temperatures in the 90s are uncommon for that area, supposedly.  We never saw anything different. That, plus the wicked hard terrain, took a toll on me.  In the first half of the trail, I cried three times.  In southern Maine, I cried three times a day.   I don't mean to be whining- I knew this would be hard, but I didn't know how it would affect me physically and mentally.  Day Tripper compared it to a house of cards.  You keep building and building and suddenly you put on the final card and it all collapses.

The final card for me was Mahoosuc Notch.  The Notch is known as the "most difficult mile of the trail".  It is basically a jumbled boulder field.  A lot of people say that you have to take your time and it is fun.  It was fun; I love bouldering and had a blast with similar boulders later in Maine.  But the problem was time.  The stress of a deadline was just too much.

But the universe provides, and a trail angel came in the form of another thru-hiker, Scatters. She is an aspiring writer who is working on a book of short stories about dating on the trail, and Day Tripper and I are one of her stories of interest. Scatters was in a hurry to meet her mom at the end of that day.  Her parents have a house in Rangeley, Maine and her mom was taking some hikers for the night.  Her mom made us a delicious steak dinner with homemade blueberry pie for dessert.  And her mom offered to drop us off anywhere the next day, and I made the most difficult decision of the entire thru-hike.

We resumed our hike the next day.  But, in the interest of time, health, and general enjoyment of the trail, we resumed our hike about 30 miles from where we left off.  So we skipped those miles.  It was a very difficult thing to do and  I felt incredibly guilty, like I was cheating.  Thirty miles, or two days worth of hiking, isn't much in the grand scheme of our hike, but it certainly kept me awake at night.  Those of you who know me well know that I am a rule-follower and I try to be an honest person, which is why I am admitting this.  I do intend to go back and hike every mile that I missed.  I have never defined myself as a "purist" or someone who tries to hike past every single blaze, but up until that point I made an honest effort to try.

One of the hardest things about the decision was how judgemental some people were.  I would guess that over half of thru-hikers skip small sections or "blue-blaze".  Blue blazing is hiking on a trail other than the AT for a while and skipping white blazes.  Anyway, some people had trouble minding their own business.  The take-home point here? Don't judge until you walk 2,000 miles in someone else's boots.

So we left from Rangeley at a more reasonable pace.  We still had lot of huge climbs and boulder scrambles ahead, but it didn't seem so intimidating.  And we managed to rebuild our bodies and spirits enough to summit Katahdin while truly being able to enjoy the rest of Maine, and it was blissful.

More soon!


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The White Mountains and our first Moose sighting

Lack of internet access and a busy schedule to finish the trail have caused me to neglect my blog- sorry! I am currently in Caratunk, ME and will write about Maine in a little while, but here is my story of the White Mountains.

The White Mountains greeted us with a big climb and a steep, slippery descent: Mt. Moosilauke.  The meaning of this name has nothing to do with "moose" or "lake", but we saw our first moose there! As we neared the top of the mountain and the alpine vegetation zone we heard some scampering in front of us.  It was a young moose, and he was freaking out.  He was running in circles and grunting.  We had heard that moose will usually just scamper off if they see people, but this one was crazed and the vegetation on both sides of the trail was too thick for him to move through.  Eventually he just went the other way and we discovered that the reason for his behavior was that there was a couple coming down the trail towards us, so he felt trapped.  All ended well, and we got a nice picture of a moose's butt.

Moosilauke wasn't nearly as difficult as it is made out to be, but the Whites as a whole are.  Our hourly pace slowed from 2.5-3 miles an hour to 1 at times.  The trail requires a lot of hand-over-hand scrambling that is more like rock climbing than hiking. It was certainly something different!

The real bummer of the White Mountains was our time spent in Lincoln, NH.  We had to spend three nights there because Day Tripper had an abscessed tooth and the only dentist for miles around wasn't there on the weekend.  So we just sat around impatiently.  Fortunately she cam back early from Cape Cod just to take care of us- picked him up at the hotel, opened her office at 7 pm, and gave us the thru-hiker rate.

After leaving Lincoln we were eager to get into the heart of the White Mountains.  It was a blessing in disguise that we were delayed a few days because that allowed a storm to pass.  Bad weather in the White Mountains is a lot worse than bad weather in a lot of other places on the trail because a lot of the trail is above tree line and exposed.  We had great weather across Franconia Ridge, followed by a few days of light rain. The day we summitted Mt Washington was VERY wet and windy but tolerable, especially because Mt Washington is the 2nd highest peak on the AT and has the "worst weather in the United States".  It holds the record for the highest recorded wind speed anywhere on land in the world.  Somehow, miraculously, as soon as we reached the summit the sky cleared and we had a great view of New Hampshire and Maine.  Some people claimed that we could see all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, but that looked like a mirage to me.

In addition to surviving the terrain of the Whites, we survived the AMC.  This organization, the Appalachian Mountain Club, is responsible for maintaining the AT through the Whites. Thru-hikers refer to them as the "Appalachian Money Collectors" because they charge a fee for using the shelters.  That's fine with me- it's just $8 per person per night and I guess it is a high-use area, so whatever.  The real annoyance was the hut system.  There are numerous mountain huts along the trail that people pay $100+ per night to stay at.  Through certain stretches there are no camping spots because you are above treeline They allow you to do work for stay, which basically meant washing dishes, etc to stay there for free.  We couldn't complain because it is a privilege to stay in the huts for free, but at the same time thru-hikers would rather not stay there, we were just forced to.  Long story short, we were treated pretty rudely in some instances, and it would be beneficial for the AMC to build more shelters in the White Mountains so thru-hikers and rich weekend hikers could be kept apart and get more of the experience they want.

Mentally, the White Mountains were very difficult and that was magnified by the fact that we took time off in the real world to go to a wedding.  They were hard physically, but we were well-rested so we managed to trudge through them. And, up to that point, were the most beautiful spot on the trail and overall a good experience, until we got to Maine.  Maine takes the cake as our favorite spot, and I will write more about that later.  Right now I have to go eat lunch because my hiker hunger is back full-force and I only have a few more weeks to eat whatever I want without feeling guilty!


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Live Free (on big mountains while wearing Nike shorts) or Die

Live Free or Die is the state motto in New Hampshire.  That's right, one more state line down and less that 400 miles to Katahdin!  Sorry that I haven't updated in a while- I took a little time off for Day Tripper's brother's wedding.  His family is from Georgia, and ironically the wedding was held in Dahlonega, Georgia.  That is town near the start of the trail! We passed the hostel that people stay in before climbing Springer Mountain and went to the outfitter where people buy last minute gear.  It was very bizarre to be back there, mainly because my flight was two hours long.  That means it took me two hours to travel the distance that I walked in 4.5 months!   Walking was more fun, although on the flight I played a really fun trivia game on the plane's seatback touch screen.

Here's my account of Vermont/the beginning of New Hampshire.  It was SO beautiful and made me even more stoked for the White Mountains, albeit a little scared.  Remember how I said in my last post that Vermont has no pointless ups-and-downs? Well, I found them.  They are all in Northern Vermont.   I slowed my pace to be at a convenient spot to leave the trail for a wedding, but when I probably would have slowed down anyway.  Highlights included Killington Peak and an overnight stop in Rutland, Vermont for some great trail magic.  Also, I never saw a moose, but there will be more chances for that in Maine.

On one interesting day in Vermont I was walking the last few miles to the sheltershelter and saw an overweight old man with a walking stick lumbering up the trail (I do believe it is possible to lumber up something, not just down).  His shirt was unbuttoned, his gut was hanging out, and he looked like Santa Claus on a camping vacation.  My first thought was "I'm not so sure about this guy".  Lo and behold, he is Warren Doyle.  I thought he was kidding and psychotic at first but then remembered that Warren Doyle is leading a group of twelve on a "thru-hike" this year.  Basically, people pay him to facilitate their thru-hike.  They walk the whole trail but "slackpack" it, meaning they don't carry full packs and a van meets them every night with food, their tents, etc.   Warren Doyle is famous for founding the American Long Distance Hiking Association (ALDHA) and setting an early speed record on the trail, a thru-hike in 66 days.  SO he went about 3 times as fast as me.  This year Warren is completing hike number 16 of the AT.  16 x 2175? That's a lot of miles. It was a pleasure to meet him.

In all of his thru-hikes, Warren has never gone southbound (SOBO).  I hiked with him for a bit the days after meeting him and he explained why- to him it is more meaningful to have a mountain like Katahdin at the end.  It's huge, the hike is hard, it's remote, it's historic, and it has important religious value for native people.  It also has important spiritual value for thru-hikers as an iconic mountain at the end of a long journey.  Springer Mountain isn't nearly imposing enough to do that.

Recently we have been running into a lot of thru-hikers walking south.  They are a little over a month into their journeys so it is interesting to compare their hike with ours at that stage.  Generally, southbounders have bigger beards than northbounders and are just a little bit crazier. There is more solitude during a southbound hike than a northbound one so maybe you have to be a little crazy to want to do it that way?  But their is no other explanation for why they all look like they have been on the trail longer except they're weird.  A lot of them are also arrogant about the fact that they have gone through the hardest mountains and we haven't, but seriously- they have walked 25% as far as us and most of them will still quit.  In my opinion, they just haven't yet realized that the hardest part of the trail is mental, not physical, and a few more months of thinking all day will humble them a little.  Actually I think most of them are arrogant to hide how insecure they are about the fact they have only hiked a small section of the trail so far.

Anyway, I was anxious to get to Hanover, New Hampshire for my mail drop (and Ben and Jerry's).  I decided to have my winter gear sent to myself a little farther up the trail, so this mail drop was just care packages from friends and family.  The postmaster was glad to see me because all of my packages were taking up too much space!  Thanks everyone- on really rough days I am reminded of everyone at home cheering for me to finish and that makes a world of difference. 

Hanover is the home of Darthmouth College, and it is very similar to Lexington, VA, where I went to college.  Preppy undergrads, a beautiful campus, and a small town college feel.  The weirdest thing is that three different groups of people asked me for directions.  How did my uncleanliness indicate I was a local?  I didn't have my backpack on.  I honestly think they assumed I was a student because I was wearing Nike running shorts.  Every sorority girl in America has Nike running shorts in at least three different colors.  They are comfortable, dry, quickly, and are universally flattering, which is why I hike in them.

New Hampshire has already presented more challenging terrain than we have seen in a while, and I have only hiked 40 miles of it so far. Rebar steps in rocks and loooong climbs were rewarded with fire towers and AMAZING views.  I saw Mt Washington, Mt Moosilauke, and some of the other presidentials in the distance. 

Tomorrow we head back to New Hampshire.  I am ready and hope that my trail legs haven't gotten lost in one week.  I am very well-rested and well-fed, and tonight I am meeting up with a best friend from college and one from graduate school (St Lightining, you can read about her in one of my posts from April) for a last little bit of the real world before the test of mind, body, and spirit that is about to come. 


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ben and Jerry's next flavor? Vermud

A persistent underlying theme of my thru-hike? ICE CREAM.  What better place to be than Vermont, home of Ben and Jerry's?

I love Vermont. The Green Mountains are more rugged than mountains we have seen lately, yet beautiful. Beaver-dammed ponds add something new to the scenery and there have been some amazingly crisp mountain lakes for swimming.  The weather has been mild and there are few pointless ups-and-downs.  There are lots of ups-and-downs, but they lead to fire towers and views and lakes and things worth hiking for.

The only problem lately has been MUD.  Thru-hikers have nicknamed the state Vermud because the trails are very, very muddy.  Immediately after crossing the MA/VT border we were slogging through mud.  For a while we tried to avoid it by hopping across rocks.  It reminded me of that game that we played when we were little- the one where we jumped on furniture and tried to avoid the "hot lava" or carpet.  We jumped on rocks, logs and roots to avoid slimy mud.  Eventually that got frustrating and I just started walking straight through the mud.  I heard Day Tripper cuss for the first time, thanks to Vermud.

One positive aspect of the mud is that it preserves moose tracks!  I have seen dozens of huge tracks so far but have yet to see the moose itself. Unfortunately my camera is dead and I won't be charging it until New Hampshire, so I will have no pictures Vermont.  I'll come back someday though, because this thru-hike is really just an adventure along a narrow corridor of the Appalachians.  There is so much more of these mountains that I have yet to explore.  Plus I need to try my hand (or feet) at some of the Vermont ski slopes that I've been hearing about.

Day Tripper had to leave the trail AGAIN after just two days in Vermont, so I'm tackling most of the state solo.  But not really, because I am in a little cluster of other hikers, most of whom I really like.  I have been hiking around two especially interesting women lately- Wild Poodle and Cahoda, both in their 60's.  This is Cahoda's 5th thru-hike attempt.  These women are examples of persistence on the trail and how all-consuming this dream can become. I think this is their year.

I should be in New Hampshire in about a week. New Hampshire is home to the hardest section of trail- the White Mountains.  So I still have a lot of challenges ahead of me.  Also,  I am taking a week off of the trail in the middle of August to go to Day Tripper's brother's wedding, so that puts my Katahdin summit date somewhere around mid-September.  Less than 600 miles to go from here, but it feels within reach.

Time for some ice cream!


Thursday, July 22, 2010

High Points and Northern Hospitality

I'm in Massachusetts. Not sure how that happened, but the miles are flying by.  As of today I have less than 600 miles left! This morning I honestly considered taking a hike on the Long Trail, which runs over 200 miles from the AT in Vermont to Canada, to make this last longer.  That's on my list of future trails though, and for now I have to live in the present and savor this as much as possible because I know it will be over soon.

Connecticut was quick and awesome. It was my last state in the Mid-Atlantic portion of the AT, which meant the last state with wimpy mountains.  The highest point in Connecticut is Bear Mountain, which Day Tripper and I just happened to be on top of during the scariest thunderstorm of my life.

The trail passes through or near some very quaint cities in Connecticut, and it seemed like we were on a travelling tour of Connecticut neighborhoods for a while.  We are definitely in New England!  One thing was very noticable about mountain towns here- rich people live in the mountains in the North, while poorer people live in the mountains in the south.  Interesting observation.

We also did something that I vowed to never do but I couldn't resist- an aqua blaze! Aqua blazing is floating down a section of the trail instead of walking, and in Connecticut near the Housatonic River the AT parallels the river for ~6 miles.  At first I felt guilty about not walking those miles, but we could see the white blazes as we floated, and I promise I won't do it again! It was amazingly fun though and a great break from our normal routine. So we rented tubes from a local outfitter and aqua blazed thanks to our new friends Dave and Nate.  They are a father and son duo that we met at a grocery store in Kent, CT and they helped shuttle us for the tubing trip.  They seemed eager to help, probably because they needed a break from their cross-country trip, the purpose of which was to research hot dog stands because they are opening one called Little Chubby's Weiners.  If you are ever in Wichita, Kansas I suppose you should go.  They even gave Day Tripper a shirt because he lost his in the river- great trail magic!

Massachusetts has been amazing for a few reasons.  First, we finally met up with Conan and Backwards, some of our favorite hiking partners.   We had been chasing them since Virginia, and Backwards got giardia so we actually passed them without realizing it.  We met up at Benedict Pond in a state forest in MA, where we were celebrities for the day.  Somehow word got out among families swimming at the beach there that we were walking from Georgia to Maine, and we spent the afternoon chatting about our trip in exchange for lots of delicious food and drinks.  The best part of the day was when Andrew, a five-year-old kid from New Jersey looked at us with big blue eyes and said very matter-of-factly "Hopefully you won't starve on your way all the way to the corner of the United States".  Hopefully we won't, but with the obscene amount of money I have been spending on food lately I think I'll be ok.

This state has offered some amazing views and scenery, something that was missing in the Mid-Atlantic.  A hightlight was Upper Goose Pond, where the Appalachian Mountain Club maintains a cabin next to a pond for swimming complete with canoes and kayaks and topped off with a pancake breakfast.  Yesterday we summited the highest point in the state, Mt Greylock, and had a sneak peak at the White Mountains, theinfamous mountain range that awaits us in New Hampshire. It's hard to believe that we're getting so close to the Whites, and so close to the end.

People in Massachusetts are much, much more friendly than I had expected.  I had heard rumors of "Massholes" which basically are snobby, arogant New Englanders.  I have yet to meet them.  Maybe it is because we are friendly and kind, and we know the importance of respect to local residents in town and on the trail.  Take-home point of Massachusetts- kindness encourages kindness. 

Now I'm going with Backwards to visit the Crane Museum, a museum at a famous paper factory where all the money in the US was once made.  Random, maybe, but it's free and who knows when I'll be back in Massachusetts?  Vermont tomorrow will be the first state on the AT that I have not yet visited, so it will definitely feel far from home. Farther from home every day, but closer to Katahdin.