The First Patrol

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This tree was snapped off like a match stick

Hiawassee, GA, Top of Georgia Hostel, Sunday March 8, 2015 — My first patrol was over late Friday night.  The hiking was energy intensive at times, especially in the snow early on.  The ice and wind inflicted some serious damage on the trees, especially along the expose saddles between mountains.

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Overall, the trail treadway is in good shape.  The water is draining properly and the mud is minimal under the conditions although my clothes were covered with it by the time I’d reached the summit of Springer Mountain.

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Along the way I was able to clear several blowdowns that impeded navigation.

The hikers seemed strong and determined for the most part.  I did notice a propensity for them to hold at shelters or dive into town when it rained.  I can’t say I didn’t do some of that during my hike.  Hiking in the rain is miserable.

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My patrol pattern will be changing for the rest of the time I’m here.  From now on, I’ll be hiking south from Neels Gap to Springer where I’ll spend two days while the caretaker there is off.  This makes sense since most of the need to help hikers occurs in the first 30 miles.

Naturally, Murphy was lurking over my shoulder.  I didn’t get back to Hiawassee until 11:30 p.m. Friday evening.  I was so tired that I locked my car keys in the trunk.  I had to go to Atlanta to get a new one.  Lesson learned!

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This weekend was spent at the Appalachian Trail Kickoff.  It’s a hiking seminar at Amicalola State Park.  The presentations ranged wide and far from bears, to hostels, to lightweight gear.  It’s designed to help hikers learn what would be helpful for them to know prior to starting their hikes.

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It was a special privilege to meet and talk with Gene Espy, the second person ever (1953) to thru hike the Appalachian Trail.

Next week we do it again.

Majestic Maine

Little Bigalow Lean-to, ME, AT NOBO mile 2014.4, Wednesday July 23, 2014 — The Bigalow peaks are in the record books. That’s not to say it’s all easy from here. It’s not, but the long hard slogging climbs are done, all but one – Katahdin itself.

The majesty of Maine remains on display. From the endless horizon to lovely lakes; from monster boulders to rocky trail, this state is special and stands out among the other 13 through which the trail transits.

This rugged country is especially challenging to the maintenance crews – volunteers one and all. The hard rock safety installations and endless miles of bog bridging could not be in place without incredible dedication. Some of these folks have to hike several days just to reach the area they need to work. Did I mention how heavy their tools are? I’m in awe of what they do and have done.

The Bigalows are special. As I cleared Avery peak, I wanted to linger, but thunder rolled in the distance pushing me to get past the final peak, Little Bigalow Mountain, before Thor could fry me with one of his missiles.

I barely made it off Little Bigalow’s slab rock top when someone up there turned on a remarkably cold shower. The motivational zig zag mood lighting spurred the pace just a little.

I arrived at the lean-to feeling like a wet puppy, but I was in good company. At the moment, we’re waiting for more drown rats to float in before someone throws the dark switch to mark the official end of the day.

Tomorrow the trail promises to be relatively flat. I’m planning to dash the 17 miles to Harrison’s Pearce Pond Camp which is noted for it’s massive breakfast. Stay tuned to see if I make it.

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A woman simply disappeared without a trace on the trail last year. The area isn’t difficult or dangerous. Sounds fishy to me.

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No bridges in Maine. Bull.


Tonight’s campsite.

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Maine worries more about squirrels than bears! Not a good message for southbounders who are headed dead on into bear country.

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Old fire tower.

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Hikes off trail for water. Passed through this keyhole to get some.


Entrance.

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Liquid sunshine!

There’s good news tonight!

Sorry this one is out of sequence. Have I mentioned that I don’t like the WordPress ap anymore …

Horns Pond Lean-to, ME, AT NOBO mile 2002.2, Tuesday July 22, 2014 — Gabriel Heatter was a noteable radio newscaster in his day. His signature sign on was “There’s good news tonight.” That’s what I’ve got.

More than 2,000 miles have been recorded on the ledger. Only 183 left to go. Of course there are the Bigalows where I am now and a whole lot more that must be endured before the final climb up Maine’s feature mountain.

Today’s hiking was beyond strenuous. I was camped half way up south Crocker Mountain. As luck would have it, there are two of the steep little SOBs right in a row. They’re followed by a steep descent where a paved highway leads to the village of Straton which I by-passed.

Then comes one of the most beautiful ups yet. The trail scrambles between talus rock falls and monster boulder fields. It could have been a “Lord of the Rings” movie set. Bilbo my man, me thinks we might be in mordor.

I also was about close to exhaustion when I stumbled into the lean-to. It was hot today and the water wasn’t spaced out well. After quaffing some pond water, and following a calorie laden dinner – chicken with cheese potatoes – I am both stuffed and refreshed. The knees feel great too!

It’s difficult to describe the attraction engendered by Maine’s rugged and strenuous hiking. The isolation is everything which most of us were hoping this hike would be. I mean I haven’t heard a Harley’s obnoxious exhaust from the trail in Maine yet!!! Most everywhere else, they keep campers awake at night. Not here.

Tomorrow features a couple of leg burning climbs, but it’s a relatively short day with scattered thunderstorms forecast in the afternoon. I has wanted to hike 17 miles to a shelter from which I’d get a running shot at the Kennebec ferry and my food drop in Caratunk, but considering the weather, I’ll split the days.

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Someone has a sense of humor.

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