July 27, 2011

Monkey Tribe ReUnited

First, I must say that I've been accused of "hi-jacking" the blog [from the other members of the Monkey Tribe]. I reminded them that it was my blog and that I can blog about whatever I want..be it cake tasting, friend visiting, or wedding hair - or trail things, it's mine to blog however I want. (: I realize how silly it was and apologize. [Can you tell Upstate & I are battling right now over this?!...can't give him the computer for one minute!]

Well, I made it to Maine after close to 21 hours of driving...not straight through of course. I left out Friday morning after breakfast at Chick-Fil-A with Carson. One last time since Chick-Fil-As are far & few between above the Mason-Dixon line. My first stop [not including bathroom & food breaks] was Doug & Karena's house in Libertytown, MD. You'll remember them from Memorial Day weekend ... and Brock breaking Doug's nose. Marlene was even there -- it was a mini reunion with these guys! We enjoyed dinner, catching up & home-made peach cobbler (: YUM! Saturday AM I made it out around 9AM after a delicious meal of breakfast casserole & biscuits made from scratch [thanks Karena!]. I headed east out of Libertytown to hook up with I-95. Once I made the connection it was smooth sailin' until the New York area. If you've ever driven the route I took I feel sorry for you! Not only did I have to pay over $30 in tolls, I sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic for over an hour between NY & CT. AND since I have a micro-bladder that only made things worse. When I finally made it out of CT I hit the highway in MA and coasted on to Maine. Vermont was out of this world beautiful. I told Mike I would move there just for the beauty and the greenness! I hope we really get to enjoy driving through there on our way home...it's really hard impossible to get any pictures of the landscape when you're the driver and the photographer. Mike'll have to drive realllllllly slow on the way home (: Back to my current drive. As I was getting closer to Maine I had to pass through Gorham, NH. This is a really cute little town [from what I could see during my drive by in the dark] with lots of little shops & restaurants. About 1/2 a mile before town actually started I saw something large & black cross the road in front of me. I flipped on the brights & behold! IT WAS A BEAR!!! I'm not gonna lie - that was pretty cool! I spazzed out & called my dad [who upon answering the phone wanted to know "are you there yet!?"] since he hunts them & could appreciate the coolness of it. After the bear sighting Mike called to tell me that he, Loop, & Face Jacket were at a gas station...could I pick them up on my way into town? I quickly found the gas station where they had parked themselves on a curb [as it was the only thing around].  They were in the process of passing-around a gallon jug of whole milk and a bag-full ("bag-full" as in a quantity of more than thirty) of Dunkin Donuts that had been handed to them out of a back door, wrapped in a black trash bag at closing time!  I swung right in and rescued them from their street-ratery! How sweet it is to see your best friend in the world after 5.5 long weeks of separation. If you only knew! And of course it was good to reunite the Monkey Tribe [with our newest member..Face Jacket Monkey] We headed back to the Briar Lea B&B where we were staying for the evening. They sure brought me back in style! This was a neat little gem in Bethel, ME - if you're ever in the area, I'd highly recommend it!

Sunday brought us to our first day of slackin' the boys. We headed to Grafton Notch State Park where they'd ended the night before - I dropped them off with big grins & tiny packs. They only planned on hiking 10 miles because we'd spent the morning planning out the next two weeks. After dropping them off, I decided I'd head on to our "end point" for the night which happened to only take me 20 minutes to get to. So--I spent the afternoon sweating it out in the car...reading & napping. This is where I met Kiddo's mom, Kiddo, & Tide [the boys already knew them, but they're new friends]. When the boys made it to the parking lot, we hiked down the trail a little to an awesome swimming hole / camp site & set up our tents, sat around the fire, and decompressed. We cooked dinner at the car [thanks Mrs. Pam for the taco soup-it was perfect for this Maine weather!]. Everyone agreed that it's much nicer to have a car to camp out of and to leave all of your gear in! We got up & out on Monday morning...the boys once again leaving with their "day packs" & me heading off to the next road. However, this time the quaint town of Andover was in between me and the boys. I had coffee and an egg at the local diner & met up with Kiddo's mom. She was actually having car trouble, so I offered her a ride to the road crossing where our hikers would cross for lunch. She gladly accepted [we'd learned that the Andover Public Library was only open one day a week...so it was either go with me or sit at the diner until her car was fixed]. We met the boys for lunch as planned and surprised Kiddo when she got there! We ended up waiting for Tide who came along a little after it'd started raining and decided [wisely] to call it a day, so we brought her back to town with us. By that time Cathy's [Kiddo's mom] car was fixed so I dropped her off at Martin's garage [go figure]. We'd planned to pick up our hikers that night at the same road & since Cathy heard from locals that the weather was supposed to be nasty I called the Town & Lake Motel & Lakeside Cottages in Rangeley to see if they had anything to accommodate the 7 of us [asking for a hiker rate of course]. Surprisingly, they offered us a cabin for $100 + tax a night for the 7 of us! I scooped up the boys [after waiting in a lady construction worker's truck because it was FRIGID out & you couldn't see Edmund from where I had to park bc of the road construction] & proudly told them of the deal I'd gotten. Off we went! Cathy, Kiddo, & Tide weren't far behind & suggested dinner together in town. We took 'em up & headed the 0.3 miles down the road to the diner, which was closed. However, not far down the road, The Red Onion was open so we headed there. Full and tired we drove back to the cabin for warm showers, fire, reading, the Braves game, and bed. This morning we made the executive decision to stay another night in the cabin - all 7 of us - since the next road crossing is only about 10 miles from here. So...here I sit in the lobby [after a day of exploring the town] waiting for the boys to finish their hike. I have high hopes of canoeing on the lake & possibly visiting the library once they're back (:

Oh yea! For all you folks sweating it out in the 100+ degree weather at home...I'm sitting comfortably in my faithful sweatpants and long sleeve tee. It's in the 60's, and of course I'm freezing, but I'm sure y'all would love it. (: haha

Special and sincere Thank You to everyone who contributed to our food stores and sent notes from home!  You guys know who you are, and your generosity is humbling.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

packin' up!
packin' up 

NY .. sitting in traffic
NY - sitting in traffic. 

God is GOOD. Sunset over Vermont Mt.s [don't worry, i pulled over at a pull off for this pic]
God is GOOD! This picture doesn't do the sunset over the mountains in Vermont justice. I was blown away .

Mikey scrubbing off the bugs from Edmunds windshield.
Mikey scrubbing the bugs of the windshield. He was happy to have Edmund up here--even if he is pretty dirty from the drive up! 

The Briar Lea Inn where we stayed our first night with me back
The Briar Lea Inn where we stayed my first night back

car camping
Car Camping = glorious (: 

my hang-out spot in Andover
my hang out in Andover - the local diner! 

Cabin #26 in Rangeley
our cabin in Rangeley - we stayed here 2 nights because of the weather & the amazing deal they gave us 

Loop, Upstate, Me, Kiddo, Face Jacket, Tide & Cathy
Loop, Upstae, Me, Kiddo, Face Jacket, Tide & Cathy at the Red Onion 

Rangeley Library
where I am right now...the Rangeley Publi Library 

July 21, 2011

New Hampshire, White Mountains, Stealth Camping and Work-for-Stays

Viva la Monkey Tribe!  Upstate, checking in.  Hope this post finds each of you faithful followers well!  Loop and I are in Gorham, NH, desperately searching for excuses to NOT start hiking for the day.  Haha, so far we've done a great job.

There's o-so-much that's happened since we left you in Hanover.  After our last post, Loop and I enjoyed a nice afternoon in Hanover, eating approx. 10lbs. of pizza and Mrs. Pam's "power cookies" and seeing "Super 8" with Bean and Six-String at the local cinema.  It was almost a perfect evening too.  Almost perfect until we walked out of the theater to a raging wind and a sky-full of ominous clouds that seemed to be saying, "you have about 3 minutes before we unleash the fire-hose fury on you."  This wouldn't have been a problem at all (what with plenty of restaurants and cafes around for ducking-into) except that Loop and I had stashed our packs in some bushes earlier in the afternoon, down at the bottom end of town (approx. half a mile away).  You could probably have seen our faces drop with the realization that our un-covered packs were in imminent danger of being soaked through.  Only one thing to do in these situations...run.  Run fast.  I actually took 30 seconds to lace up my shoes for the sprint--Loop pushed on with reckless abandon.  I can't explain what it feels like to use running muscles after being so used to walking all day with a load on your back.  But, I'm sure it looks pretty un-gazelle-like.  It certainly doesn't look better when you're running with an all-you-can-eat-pizza-chocolate cakey-food baby belly.  I mean, we were uncomfortably full just sitting in the movie theater.  So anyway, we ran.  It started to really pour after about 300yds, and we were fairly soaked by the time we made our packs.  Feeling a bit discouraged that we were now wet, and it was dark AND we hadn't put a single second's thought into sleeping arrangements, we decided to walk back into town to solve all of these problems over a pint of LongTrail and Ben and Jerry's.  As 12am drew near and we still didn't know where to sleep (we had pretty much wimped out on hiking out of town with headlamps and setting up a tent in the rain at this point), we decided to just walk toward the edge of town, hoping to chance on some college student who may offer to let us crash on his couch.  Wishful thinking right?  The trail can mess with your rational-thinking skills.  Unsuccessful, of course.  Totally defeated, we reached the end of town and started to walk through a wet field towards the woods...and then our eyes fell on the home dugout of an undisclosed and particular Ivy League school's lacrosse field.  There it stood, like a shining beacon of the most radiant light.  The most radiant and dry and not soaking wet light.  Oh yes, we did.  And so would you if you had been in our shoes.  Wanting to avoid an uncomfortable interchange where we sleepily tried to explain why we were sleeping here to a pack of geared-up athletes waiting to start practice, we moved out before dawn.  And so was the entering of the mountains of Vermont.  Mt. Moosilauke, or the gateway to the White Mountains, was the first big climb, and was a very rude awakening to the degree of difficulty of hiking that was to come.  But the beauty of this area is truly beyond description.  In a nutshell, the Whites have been a big pile of 2,000+ foot almost-vertical climbs and descents, unusually perfect weather, spectacular valley views, extended treks above treeline, remote camping spots and the most fun that I've had hiking on the first 1,900 miles of this never-ending trail.  Memorable peaks include Smarts and Cube (actually not part of The Whites), Moosilauke and the North and South Kinsmans, Lincoln, LaFayette, Jackson, Jefferson, Monroe, Washington and Madison (most of these are part of a small section of peaks commonly referred to as "the Presidentials"), all with breath-taking views of surrounding valleys and peaks.  I wish I could go into more detail, but I think I'm about to be kicked out of the Gorham Library!  I'll have to tell y'all about our work-for-stay at Lakes of the Clouds hut, the ascent of Mt. Washington, our new friend "Face Jacket" and our stay at the White Mountain Hostel and Inn on a later day!  Only a few days 'til we get to meet Caboose in Maine!  Boy are we pumped. 

Sorry for the rather abrupt conclusion to this post--circumstances just won't allow any further illustrative writing!  Haha.  You folks stay classy.  We'll keep moving along.

Six String, Loop, Upstate and Bean after seeing 'Super 8' in Hanover (just before the bottom dropped out and everyone had to run half a mile on a full stomach)
Six String, Loop, Upstate & Bean after seeing "Super 8" in Hanover [just before the bottom dropped out & everyone had to run half a mile with a full belly]

Enjoying a break after the 3,000 crawl up Mt. Moosilauke
Enjoying a break after the 3,000 crawl up Mt. Moosilauke

Loop trekking across the summit of Mt. Moosilauke
Loop trekking across the summit of Mt. Moosilauke

rescue bird
Rescue Bird

Lonesome Lake at the foot of the North Kinsman peak
Lonesome Lake at the foot of the North Kinsman peak

Valley view from Little Haystack
Valley view from Little Haystack

The boys with Face Jacket on Little Haystack (LaFayette in background)
The boys with Face Jacket on Little Haystack [LaFayette in background]

Ridgewalking up to LaFayette
Ridgewalking up to LaFayette

Mt. LaFayette from Mt. Lincoln
Mt. LaFayette from Mt. Lincoln

The boys enjoying a nice view of the valley from Mt. Lincoln
The boys enjoying a nice view of the valley from Mt. Lincoln

Ridgeline view from Mt. Lincoln
Ridgeline view from Mt. Lincoln

Dinner at Lakes of the Clouds hut. (left side from front: Brownie, Loop, Upstate, Face Jacket, Tide, Kiddo. Right Side from front: Beer Hunter, Timber, Seaweed, El Bear Jew, Rock Puncher, Hot Sauce, Beau)
Dinner at Lakes of the Clouds hut. [left side from front: Brownie, Loop, Upstate, Face Jacket, Tide, Kiddo. Right Side from front: Beer Hunter, Timber, Seaweed, El Bear Jew, Rock Puncher, Hot Sauce, Beau]

Alpine lakes near the hut
Alpine lakes near the hut

Lakes of the Clouds hut at the foot of Mt. Washington
Lakes of the Clouds hut at the foot of Mt. Washington

Alpine environment above the treeline--most of The Whites look like this!
Alpine environment above the treeline--most of The Whites look like this!

Highest point on northern half of AT--huge milestone!
Highest point on northern half of AT--huge milestone!

"Among the Clouds"
"Among the Clouds"

Original wood stove in 1800's hotel on summit of Mt. Washington
Original wood stove in 1800's hotel on summit of Mt. Washington

The boys sitting in the Tip Top House as mountaineers would have sat in the 1850's
The boys sitting in the Tip Top House as mountaineers would have sat in the 1850's

Looking down into the valley below Washington
Looking down into the valley below Washington

Washington from Madison
Washington from Madison

Loop "planking" Mt. Madison
Loop "planking" Mt. Madison

Sitting on Mt. Madison with big ole' Washington in the background
Sitting on Mt. Madison with big ole' Washington in the background

July 17, 2011

"July is electric like a bottle of wine..."

Since I've been home, I've gotten to really enjoy hanging out with our friends and help Haley with her wedding plans. (:

Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit Matt, Amanda, David & Baby Tingle [along with Emma, Katie, Steve & Dilly] for the whole weekend! After a longer than necessary drive to Athens we spent a little time catching up before we headed across the street to the Asher's where Emma & Katie were baby-sitting. We hung out, enjoyed a pasta dinner, and played with the kiddos before it was their bed time. While Emma & Katie put Mikey & Avery down, we walked the long walk home ... across the street to put David down. After he went to sleep, Matt & Amanda stayed up with me until around 1 AM chatting and catching up. Saturday brought about some rest / hang out time for me & Amanda -- oh, and some shopping! First we took a stroll down to the local farmers market. Friend Jake came along -- he got to pull the little kids in the wagon. It was too cute. That evening they were heading to a wedding & Amanda wanted / needed a new dress, so we packed up & headed to the mall. [EEEKkkk!! A mall?! I haven't been to one of those in months! haha] Once home, it was time for Matt & Amanda to clean up & head out with Steve & Dale to the wedding. Since David was asleep, I hung out at their house until Katie came over ... the three of us [Katie, Emma & myself] had dinner plans. We took the kids to Chick-Fil-A (: my favorite! AND at this particular location, they had SWEET POTATO WAFFLE FRIES. Yes, you read that right. They were quite heavenly. When is our Chick-Fil-A getting those?! Sunday we went to church & hung out at Mama & Papa Tingle's house before I had to head home! I sure do love the Tingles (:

Here are a few pictures from the weekend

David drinkin' his water on the way to the farmers market
David thinkin, "why are we just sitting here?!"

David--what a big boy!
Such a big boy! Love him. 

Jake pullin' the kiddos to the farmers market
Sweet Jake pulling Avery & David in the wagon to the farmers market

Yummm -- fresh lemonade (:
Lemons for fresh-squeezed lemonade!

Local Honey
local honey

Beautiful Flowers
i.love.these. so summery! 

you say to-ma-to

breakfast. vegan strawberry muffin. delish. 

david watching the rain
David watchin' the rain from the front porch.

Later in the week I got to go to the cake tasting with Haley [that we were very much looking forward to] and to her bridal pictures by Jana Candler. [Jana is a good friend who took our anniversary shots last year!] Haley has decided to use the Buttercream Bakehouse for her cake, so that's where we headed first. They let us taste three flavors: vanilla with vanilla bean icing, red velvet with cream cheese icing, and espresso. They also had a spread of buttercream icings and jellies for us to mix and match with the cakes! I won't tell you what Haley decided to go with, but man-oh-man, it's going to be delicious & beautiful! Shortly after the cake tasting, we headed to Haley's hair appointment, then off to the shoot! As soon as Haley & Kendall are married I'll add the link to Jana's page with her bridal session (: 


She's excited
She's excited! [So am I...free cupcakes!] 

Cake Tasting!
Vanilla, Espresso, Red Velvet

red velvet
Yummy heavenliness! 

it was good!
Can I have another? (: 

Hair for the pictures! 

July 12, 2011

Caboose's Big News

Howdy friends and family. Caboose here. Well, if you're a friend of mine on Facebook, you know that I have Big News to announce today. Sorry to disappoint -- Caboose & Upstate are not having a baby. [Well, not right now anyway.] I'm heading back to the trail! Before you go judging me, thinking, "that girl is crazy & can't make up her mind" let me explain. My plan is to leave next weekend - driving old, faithful Edmund the 1,157ish miles to Grafton Notch, Maine to see the boys & spend the last 2 - 2.5 weeks with them as their "road side assistance." (: I will be driving the "assistance vehicle" - carrying the boys gear [and mine ... in case I end up hiking any], tons and tons of food, emergency [in case I get stuck] stuff, lots of books, and plenty of clothes and blankets. Upstate & I have gone through Maine on a map and tentatively planned out where I will meet them each day. While I've enjoyed my time at home, I am very much looking forward to being back with Mike - 6 weeks apart will have been a very, very long time away & finishing the adventure with Team Monkey's Inc. (:

If you are interested in sending baked goods [- or any food really] with me to fatten the boys up, please let me know! [Letters are also excellent!] I'll be making rounds in Fountain Inn, Simpsonville, and Greenville next week making the necessary preparations for the long journey North, so I can stop by & pick it up - or I'll be at the Martin's house until I leave, so you can bring it by! (: Stay tuned & please say a prayer for safety as I'm making this drive!

July 11, 2011

Upstate checkin' in

Upstate checking in.  Man, are we missing you folks and home sweet home, but we're too busy having a blast to turn back now!  We're currently in Hanover, NH with less than 440 miles to go.  Loop just rolled over his 900-miles-hiked milestone and is quickly closing in on the coveted 1,000-miler status. The Green Mountains of Vermont have totally lived up to their fame for beauty--dense pine forests from the olden days with everything from low-lying lakes and bogs to bald peaks with gorgeous views.  Now we're on the doorstep of the infamous White Mountains of New Hampshire, and I've got to admit that looking at the profile has got me pretty intimidated.  But, with great challenge come great rewards.

Let me give you some highlights from the last few days.  The climb out of Manchester Center put us on top of beautiful Mt. Bromley, which is a VT ski resort.  Loop and I enjoyed an amazing 360-degree view and a salami and Swiss sandwich while sitting in a comfy ski lift chair.  We got caught in a nasty T-storm half a mile before we made it to our camp spot, and showed up at Big Branch shelter soaked and cold.  "The Beer Hunter" said, "you two boys look hungry," as he dropped a piping-hot, two serving mountain house spaghetti dinner in front of each of us (yes, two ready to eat dinners--glad I slung him that fried egg sandwich on his way out of the Green Mountain House!).  The following morning, Loop and I set up the usual "yard sale" in the first open area that we came to and enjoyed an hour and a half long break as everything dried out (only one mile into our day!).  Tough hiking for a few days brought us to Mt. Killington (another ski resort), with yet another excellent view, but too many black flies to linger for photos.  We buzzed into the town of Killington to pick up a drop box that ended up being tardy.  We decided to lay low and wait until Saturday AM to give the box one more day.  With 8 hours of afternoon to kill, we did what anyone would have done--lunch and pints at the local Irish Pub.  Reuben/Shephard's Pie/Bread Pudding and Guinness (oh, and Smithwick's too!).  The proprietor okayed us tenting in the vacant lawn across from his Inn,  so we set up tent, hitched a ride down the hill to a convenience store, grabbed a few more pints and spent the afternoon solving the worlds problems, philosophising, etc. (a.k.a.--catching up on reading and journaling, calling family and watching the clouds drift by from a comfy patch of grass).  Mack and the boys would have been honored at our performance (that's a Cannery Row reference for those of you who don't read Steinbeck).  Back to the pub for dinner and live Irish music with the Friday night Killington usuals--lots of fun!  Saturday morning and still no box, so we pushed-on without it.  However, we were well supplied by the hiker box at the Inn, which was full to the brim of some failed Long Trail hiker's lifetime collection of energy bars.  We took all that we could carry--four or five make a well-balanced and nutritious meal!  Next stop was the Overlook Cabin--a privately owned cabin built on top of a large mountain that is kindly made available to hikers, provided that it's kept clean.  The owner had a nice deck built on top of the roof that offered a stunning view of the surrounding mountains.  This is the first time I've watched the sun fall over mountains as far as I can see in any direction.  Words could never adequately describe the beauty.  And to think that this is just a shadow of the Almighty's splendor.  Thinking about the cabin reminds me to share how chilly it's been up here.  I hear tales of 100+ temps at home?!  The usual evening up here can easily drop into the 40s--I'm not bragging though, it can be quite cool for my fleece blanket (sleeping bag substitute).  We left the Lookout yesterday AM, and pushed out a pretty easy 23-mile day.  As we neared the end of our day, we came to a convenience store at a crossroads/river junction-type town.  Contrary to popular belief, the south does not have any monopoly on river-tubing, bridge-jumping, rock-sunning-type redneck fun!  We found all of these in Vermont of all places.  It may have taken 5 minutes for us to sling our packs down, grab a sandwich and Coke at the general store, peel our shirts off and run to the middle of the bridge for a plunge into the cool river below--but certainly not a second over.  "L-I-V-I-N'--that's what it's all about," Loop said as we de-shoed for our swim.  I couldn't have said it better.

We'll say hello to Edward Cullen and Bella if we see them.  You folks stay inside and out of that heat!  Love and miss you all.  Enjoy the photo dump!

Mt. Greylock tower.  Apparently, this lighthouse was built to go in Boston Harbor, but was turned-down by Boston.  The towns surrounding Greylock knew exactly where to put it.
Mt. Greylock tower.  Apparently, this lighthouse was built to go in Boston Harbor, but was turned-down by Boston.  The towns surrounding Greylock knew exactly where to put it.

Mt. Greylock--highest peak in Mass.
Loophole & Upstate on Mt. Greylock, the highest peak in MA

The AT follows the Long Trail (which is over 100 years old) for approx. 100 miles
The AT follows the Long Trail (which is over 100 years old) for approximately 100 miles

Heading into VT
entering Vermont

Neat presentation of trail states
What a neat presentation of the states of the AT (:

Green Mountain House
the Green Mt. House Hiker Hostel
[the boys loved this place]

Summiting Bromley
Summiting Bromley

Lunch on top of Mt. Bromley
lunching on top of Mt. Bromley

From left: Spoon, Estero, Loop, Six-String, Upstate and Bean
Spoon, Estero, Loophole, Six String,
Upstate & Bean 

Plank walks go on for thousands of feet around VT lakes
walkin' on the planks that lasted for thousands of miles around the lakes in Vermont

Common scene, post heavy rain
this is what happens after lots of rain. typical "yard sale" of clothes / gear strewn everywhere 

Trail art in the form of rock cairns--hikers can get rather creative with rocks
Trail art in the form of rock cairns--hikers can get rather creative with rocks

Lookout Cabin
a lookout cabin

Deck on top of the Lookout Cabin
Upstate & Loophole on the lookout

Cookin' dinner
cookin' dinner

Sunset over green mountains
sunset over the Green Mountains

Loop doin' his thang
Loop doin' his thang [-Upstate]
Pam, please know the boys didn't do these dangerous things when I was with them!! 

New England homes that dot the landscape and surround these little towns that we're always passing through
New England homes that dot the landscape and surround these little towns that we're always passing through

Crossing into NH
Crossing into New Hampshire!
[People, that means 2 states left! Woohoo!! Good Job Boys!]

Dartmouth Stadium exterior
the exterior of the Dartmouth stadium