Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bright Side

     I headed back out on the trail feeling better.  It was late in the day and still pretty warm.  I set my goals very short, just try to make the first shelter only two miles in.  The trail was steep from the beginning, but so far so good.  No dizziness, no fatigue, no crapping out my will to live.

     I made it to the shelter and sat down to rest and figure out if I was going to push on.  The next shelter and camping area was five miles away with some big climbing in between.  The more I rested the better I felt so I  decided to get up and get my sorry self moving again.  I went up and over Baldpate Mountain which was a rocky slab of a with an open ridge between two peaks.

     I made it to the shelter on the other side with about an hour of light left.  I set my tent up and then talked with a bunch of south bounders staying in the shelter.  The main source of conversation was The Plague.  They said they kept hearing stories of how bad everyone was getting sick and were hoping they could move through the area without getting it.  I hope they can to.

     The next morning I set off early in hopes of finally getting a good day of hiking in.  I felt pretty darn good even on the difficult trail.  It was rocky and rooty and steep and slick, but there seemed to be more up keep in this section.  There were spots to get foot holds on the slick rocks where as before you were left to slide to your doom.

     I made it to the next shelter ten miles away before noon, which made me thrilled.  There I checked my guide and planned on going to the next shelter another ten miles away.  Finally, I was going to be able to put a good day in.  I crossed the last road to Andover ME, where supposedly the hostels there are filled with hikers vomiting and diarrheaing all over the place, I'll skip that thank you very much.

     I started the ascent up Old Blue Mountain which from the road was crazy steep.  I had to stop regularly to catch my breath, something I haven't had to do in a long time.  I would climb for two or three minutes and then sit and compose myself.  I repeated that until the trail finally leveled off some and I could continue walking.  Strange, I used to be able to chug up hills, slowly, but at least I didn't have to stop.

     I made it to the top of Old Blue which offered grand views of nothing and kept moving.  I still had five miles to go and since it took me so long to get up the mountain I was running out of daylight.  The trail was a tangle of roots and mud with pine trees so closely packed together you couldn't get off trail if you wanted to. I came to the last chance to get water for a while at a nice cold spring so I filled up and kept cruising.  Right after the spring I passed two hikers camping along the side of the trail in a spot long ago cleared.  I exchanged pleasantries and kept going.  Immediately after I saw a sign indicating how far until the shelter.  I was expecting one mile, because that is what my guide said.  It said I still had five more to go, there was no chance I would be able to do five miles without hiking in the dark and I didn't want to do that.  I went back to where the other two hikers were to see if I could find a spot near them to set up my tent.  Nope, there was just enough room for the two of them.  I walked back down the trail again to where the sign was and found a spot just big enough for my tent, practically on the trail.  I figured no one would be coming past this late so I would be fine.  I had a quick meal over with the other two hikers and then called it day.  I am pretty sure I did twenty miles for the day, but with inaccuracies in the guide I have no idea anymore.

     I got up at dawn and started out.  A mile or so down the trail I came to a spot with a little bench and a clearing facing east.  There always seems to be an upside to difficult situations if you are open to seeing them.  I was a bit peeved that my book was so off, but I would have missed this moment if I made it all the way to the shelter the night before.

     I went the rest of the way to the shelter and sat down to eat some breakfast.  The "Myakan Mules", a couple from Florida I have been seeing since Pennsylvania, where there and said they didn't get in until dark because of the discrepancy in the book.  I slurped my cold oatmeal and formulated a plan for the day.  I wanted to try to do another twenty miles just to see if my body was up for it.  The trail looked pretty easy except for a few ups and downs early, so I finished up and off I went.

     The day got hot early and mixed with high humidity I was naturally swimming in my own sweat.  The trail dropped steeply into a river valley and then immediately back up to where it crossed a major roadway.  There was a little bench with beautiful views that I took full advantage of and sat until I was dry.

     Once dried, I resumed.  The trail leveled off in a way I haven't seen in at least forever, maybe longer.  I was still dodging roots and crossing muddy bogs, but my efforts were being paid off in mileage instead of elevation.  I actually felt like I could maintain a pace, it was really nice.

     Ten miles in I came to a pond that had a small sandy beach.  As I turned the corner to take a break I saw there were a whole bunch of hikers there, including my buddies "The NoodleHeads".  They had taken some time off to go to a bluegrass concert and have been behind me, but passed when I took two days off while ill.  "Angel Hair" said she had gotten sick as well and they held up Andover for a day.  We all relaxed on the shore of the pond and caught up on each others adventures.  They said that the were going to another pond only five more miles away for the night and invited me to come along.  I agreed, but when they headed out I stayed a little while longer.  I don't know if the heat was getting to me, but I felt the need to rest.  When I did leave the pond and started hiking again I was again drenched in sweat.  It should have been a nice short pleasant trip to the next pond, but my skin was starting to chafe from being wet all day.  If you have never experienced this let me tell you, it is agonizing.  It feels like every stride you take you are rubbing sand paper on the most sensitive of spots.  No amount of readjusting of clothing relieves the abrasion, I carry an ointment to help, but it only reduces the pain by a small degree.

     I rolled into the campsite by the pond and immediately set up my tent and strung a clothesline.  I changed out of my soaking clothes and put on my dry long johns.  Finally, a little relief.  There were about eight of us at the campsite and we all sat around and ate dinner.  All but one.  A girl named "Almost Awesome" was knocked out in her tent, she was currently struck with The Plague and was frequently running to the privy.  I felt horrible for her because I knew what she was going through.  Out of all of us there, everyone but two had contracted the illness.  Before nightfall it began to rain and everyone retreated to their tents.

     I got up before dawn again and packed up.  I got no sleep during the night.  My tent again let water in and my sleeping bag got wet.  Instead of complaining about it I took the canoe that was at the pond out on the water.

     When I got back in everyone was packed up and heading out.  The plan was to go five miles to a road crossing and then into town for breakfast.  The trail was easy again, but I was struggling.  I had no energy.  I am sure it was from not sleeping, but I felt horrible.  When I got to the road I ran into the rest of the group who hadn't gotten rides yet.  I changed into a different shirt that wan't sweaty so I wouldn't offend, too much, whoever pick me up.  As luck would have it a pickup truck stopped and gave us all a lift at the same time.  I had to sit in the back with some construction trash, but I was not complaining.

     We all ate at the BMC diner in Rangeley Maine.  I made the decisions that I would take the rest of the day off because of how tired I was.  I called my father and he came to pick me up.  I can't thank him enough for how flexible he has been when I need him.  I met him at a pizza joint in town and then spent the rest of the day trying to relax.  Only a few more big mountain left and then the trail is supposed to be relatively flat until the end.


Thank you everyone for your well wishes, I feel much better, but I still don't think that I am 100% yet.  Hopefully no more bouts with this bug, fingers crossed.


  1. You are Jersey Strong with many miles behind you and much knowledge. Enjoy and march on.

  2. You are very mentally strong Frenchy, anyone who has ever camped one night in the rain with a wet sleeping bag will understand, let alone someone who has been out there for 5 months. You can't even see the misery you went thru the night before in that vid on the canoe. Great read again Frenchy. You will never be the same again once you finish this journey, actually I think your Journey will just begin when finished with this monster of a trail. Keep your spirits up. Later...

    1. The sunrise was enough to make the misery almost worth it.

  3. ARe you going to get some lobster while you're in maine? Lobster rolls and whoopie pies sounds like a pretty good lunch indeed.

    1. Just had a whoopie pie, will definitely look into this lobster roll.

  4. It sucks you got sick this close to the end but at least you should be well enough to finish out. How many days left do you tank you have othe trail?

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks Tarzan, Congrats on finishing. We'll have to get together on the West Side when we are done.

  6. great journal and video's dude - really inspiring, you make us feel we're right there with you. i'm lookin into doing a 2013 thru hike, was wondering what guides or maps you are using, would really appreciate the info. good luck wth the rest of Maine!

    Philadelphia, PA

    1. Hey Daniel, thanks for following along. I use "AWOL's AT Guide". It gives the elevation profile so you have an idea whether you will be climbing or descending. It tells you where the water and shelters are, where the road crossings ans points of interest are. It really is done well. I'm planning on doing a video about the gear I carried and stuff like that when I am done, if you are interested check it out.

  7. You da man Matt!! Can't wait to see you in person and ask a million questions! Bet you can't wait for that either! :o)