August 28, 2011

12 Tyler Street

12 Tyler Street

That's going to be our new address! One that is our very own. Our first house that is O.U.R.S (: Since we've been home and had some time to think about life and where ours are headed [I know you're wondering what's up our sleeves next..] we've come into a unique situation and are going to be first time home owners pretty soon! (: We're excited about having walls to paint whatever color we want, cabinets to pick out, appliances to look for deals on, and did I mention...a whole heckofalot of work to do between now and then.

A little back story on the house & how it's coming to be ours: Mimi and her brother and sister grew up in this house. It has been empty for a number of years which caused a good deal of damage, mostly from water leaking in from holes in the roof. Mike's rents did a lot of work before we got home and since we've been home, the four of us have spent a whole lot of time renovating as much on the house as we can ourselves. This past Saturday we had a work day where several of our friends came and helped out - doing anything and everything we asked of them. Our front porch steps are in awesome condition, 4 rooms have been primed, the bathroom has been demoed, and the back porch has new sub-floor! We're making excellent progress! 

We can't wait to have all of our buddies with in driving distance again, and our downtown group will be back together - dinners, fro-yo & coffee dates, overall fellowship reinstated. Yes please. Greenville is home to us. Our hopes are that this first official home of ours will be a place that glorifies our Lord. We want to honor and serve him Him in this house that is becoming our home [Joshua 24:15]. 

12 Tyler Street

the stairs have been scraped and cleaned
wrought iron on stairs is gone
roof has been replaced

Most of the work so far has been done on the inside. We've picked out windows and Hardie board for the outside - so as soon as it comes in, we'll be super busy getting it installed. (: I'll give you "before & after" pictures as we're getting work done, so stay tuned! 

August 18, 2011

Meatless & Sweetless

Mike & I decided since we're both home .. and we're not beating our bodies with absurd amounts of exercise right now that we'd better take the opportunity to start eating healthy again. Trust me, the trail wasn't concerned with eating health - as many calories & fat grams as you want. This week started our "meatless & sweetless" trial. It's worked so well that I think we're going to try to make it last for a month! (: [I will say we are making exceptions to the rule of course, but for the most part I've been surprised with how easy it's been.]

We're in Charleston for the week, house & puppy sitting for Mere & DP so they could spend some time with DP's family on vacation - which has made it easy & hard for us at the same time to keep this up. Obviously Charleston is a mecca for good excellent food, so it's been hard not to whip the car over at the first restaurant on the way in from laying on the beach all day. However, neither of us not having worked for the past 6ish months makes it a lot easier! We took a trip to "the Teeter" when we first got here & stocked up on lots and lots of veggies, fruits, and something new: Bulgar wheat. Megan [Battlecat] from the trail recommended this - and man, we loved it! It was super easy to prepare & surprisingly, has a wonderful taste all by itself! [and, it's really cheap!] *The recipe we used was on the back of the box - hey, you've gotta start somewhere! We've also had homemade pimento cheese & guacamole out on the beach! Yum, Yum, Yum!

To go along with our healthy eating we're going to be running the Spinx Run Fest half & full marathon come October 29 [something we'd decided to do while we were on the trail]. I swore I'd not run another half after my Achilles injury from the last one...but here I am. Training starts now (:

August 17, 2011

P O R T L A N D & B O S T O N

Well folks, the AT is OVER (: After our lovely time at Brock's cousin's lake house, we parted ways. Mike & I headed to Boston while Brock hung back with his family so he could catch a flight home for a wedding. Mike literally woke up in a state of panic our first morning in Boston, thinkin' we'd lost Brock. I can already tell this "recovery process" is going to be a long one. I wouldn't be one bit surprised if I wake up one morning in the near future to find Upstate & Loop in their tents in the back yard. Seriously.

Before we headed to Boston we took a few hours to explore Portland! Mike had never been & it's been such a long time since I have - we decided "why not?!". We loved it. [But then again, there are very few places that I've been and not loved...] It reminded us of an Eastern Seattle. The streets were lined with little shops, flavorful restaurants, fresh lobsters, gelato, and so much more. We'd slept late & eaten a late breakfast in hopes of catching up with some friends from SC who actually live in Portland for lunch. However, there was a slight miscommunication, so we ate lunch in town and caught a quick visit with them on our way out. Out of all of the delicious places to choose from to eat - can you guess where Mike chose to eat lunch?! Five Guys! Can't beat a Five Guys burger. [Oh, my little creature of habit (: ] We fairly scarfed down these burgers and headed to a park to catch JD on his way into work. After a few minutes of chatting we let him run in so he wouldn't be late & headed over to see his wife, Nicole & baby boy, Caleb. They were so sweet to take us to the coast to see a real live light house before we had to go! What a treat! We decided we'd take the "back way" from Portland to Boston - so we could avoid the tolls [don't get me started] and enjoy the scenery. We made it to Concord around 9 PM and quickly got settled into our cozy, comfy room at the Colonial Inn. We got a great deal & it was only a short drive to catch the T into Boston so we could avoid the traffic mess. After we threw our stuff down we lazed around watching movies 'til the wee hours of the morning.

We'd have loved to sleep in, but Boston was calling. We breakfasted at the Inn - yummy goodness in our bellies before heading out to catch the T. If you understand my love of travel and the fact that we don't have anything like the T where I live - you know I was pretty excited about it. Even if we had to pay $7 [which I know is cheap considering] for parking. I loved sitting on the T watching people who live there and others like ourselves hop on and off at the different stops while we waited not so patiently for the "Downtown Crossing" stop. Once off the T, we strolled around for a bit, soaking it all in. We knew we wanted to walk the Freedom Trail, visit the Union Oyster House - America's Oldest Restaurant [est. 1826] & the Green Dragon Tavern [est. 1654], but since the Red Sox [YUCK!] were out of town & we couldn't catch a game, that was about it. After wandering throughout the city for a while, we headed over to Union Oyster House, but kept on walkin' because it was a little expensive for lunch ... and very crowded. We quickly found the Green Dragon and decided it was perfect. Mike ordered a whopping platter of fish & chips while I had the Benjamin Franklin, "a  no nonsense burger served plain & simple." Delish. (: Since we'd probably consumed 1000+ calories in this one sitting, which is NOT okay since we aren't hikers any more, we decided we'd better start the Freedom Trail. Don't judge...we only did about half of it, because you had to cross a bridge to get to the other half & you know, after walking 1000+ miles, it just wasn't worth it. We have been told we picked the wrong half to skip. Oh well, we'll just have to go back! (: We did see Paul Revere's house, Copp's Hill burying ground, and the Old North Church. Other parts we saw from afar as we were busy shopping. We thoroughly enjoyed Boston. Mike & I agreed we both liked it better than NYC - it had more of a cozy feel [if you can say that of a big city]. There were several streets that cars didn't drive down, so I could stand in the middle of the street and take pictures (: and I LOVED Little Italy. It really, really reminded me of Italy. [go figure] I could've stayed there for days. We skipped out on dinner in the city mainly because we weren't sure of the T times and we were pretty exhausted. Plus, we were staying in historic Concord so we thought we'd better take advantage of that. We hit a local pizza joint...ehhh, the pizza was okay and the tiramisu was lack-luster. Oh well, live and learn. When you have legit Italian, don't leave it if you want legit pizza & tiramisu. By the time dinner was over, it'd started raining so we had to walk back to the Inn in the rain. At least we weren't walking to a shelter with our packs on (: Again, we watched movies galore - a simple pleasure - before finally going to sleep.

Our next stop was Betsy's house, in PearisburgMmmmmmmm I think I'm going to enroll in Betsy's School of Southern Cooking! [I wish] After dinner we got to hang out with Besty & Larry and entertain them with stories from the trail for a little while before zonking out. I almost had to carry Mike from the couch to the bed he was so tired! We slept and we slept and we slept [for about 12 hours]. When we finally drug ourselves out of bed Betsy had run to the store to pick up all the fixin's for breakfast. Scrambled eggs, bacon & some homemade sourdough bread with homemade peach preserves Yummm!! Betsy runs a hundred miles an hour, so while Mike & I sat at her bar, she was busy makin' pickles. She explained the process to us & got me really interested in canning - that'll be an adventure to take on this fall. We loved our time with Besty & told her to hold off on missing us because we'd be back in just a few short weeks for the family reunion. As it goes when you're traveling, you never know what other crazies on the road will be doing, so we ended up having a 2+ hour detour - making our 4 hour ride home about 7 hours. Blah -- but, it is good to be home! We're still enjoying our "early retirement" (: with a week at the beach and some good time at the lake with friends on the agenda. We'll be working our way out of this early retirement soon - but more on that later!

P O R T L A N D 

Portland, ME

Gelato in Portland!

Sweet little Caleb riding in the back seat with me!

a light house


The Union Oyster House


enjoyin' lunch at the Green Dragon Tavern

the sign on the Old North Church

Paul Revere & his horse

The Freedom Trail .. the last trail I'll be doing for a while (:




Mike enjoyin' Betsy's homemade Southern cookin'

pettin' the horses at Betsy's

August 10, 2011

100 miles of wilderness, the final climb, and everything after

Folks at home!  Upstate here.  Where do I start??  Well, I reckon I'll start by saying "WE'RE DONE!!"  As a matter of fact, we've been done since Friday, August 5th at about 2pm.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your support--I can't imagine having done this without all of the help that we've received from you folks.  I've totally let the blogging slide over the past few days as we've been doing a whole lot of nothing.  Catch up time!

After spending a lovely zero day in Monson, Maine (Loop and the rest of the guys at the hostel splashed around the lake and ate the northern interpretation of Bar-B-Q while I spent the day laying around and puking up some lousy haddock-fish from the night before), Caboose slung us out at the Hwy15 parking area to take our first 29-mile chip out of the infamous "100 Miles of Wilderness."  Loop, Tiger and I paused momentarily (approx. half a mile into the woods) to read and reflect upon the sign that read something to the key of "DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE NEXT 100 MILES...CARRY 10 DAYS WORTH OF FOOD...VERY REMOTE...VERY DANGEROUS...GOD HAVE MERCY ON YOUR SOUL, ETC."  We took a few pictures (smiling like Cheshire Cats) shrugged and casually walked onward--not one of us carrying more than a few snack bars and about a liter of water (Loop actually elected to go completely au-natural with no pack whatsoever).  An onlooker might have thought, "wow, those guys are completely unprepared, mentally handicapped and will most likely die."  But, we knew something that other hikers whom we passed throughout the morning did not.  We had an ace in the hole (if you will)--a 4x4 vehicle and an incredibly capable support driver who could navigate logging roads, in some cases more than 30 miles from the nearest paved road, infiltrating the remotest part of the wilderness to bring us a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich.  Oh, Caboose, we salute you and your trusty, gas station $20 Maine atlas.  Your willingness to get out there and beat Edmund to a pulp is more than any mere wilderness can keep at bay.  Haha, seriously though--she was fantastic.  With her and the truck in the equation, we were able to carve the daunting 100 miles into 3 1/2 easily palatable days of walking.  The road support was an even bigger blessing when our last week of weather was stinking wet.  I may have just quit the whole trip if we'd been 5 days soaking wet with packs full of mildewy tents, sleeping bags, etc. That's only kindof a joke.  The weather is much less of a morale killer if your tents are set up and waiting for you when you roll in after dark in the rain.  So anyway, with Caboose's help, the wilderness went by as silently and peacefully as it came, and before we knew it we were emerging onto a dirt road with the whole thing behind us.  Initially, we had planned on hiking all the way to the foot of Katahdin on Thursday, leaving a short 5 mile climb up on Friday, but our hour-long break at the convenience store (after we popped out of the wilderness) provided us with more than enough time to rationalize why stopping early for the day was a good idea.  And you know, it actually ended up saving our hides.  Had we hiked the additional 10 miles into Baxter State Park to the base of Katahdin, we would have had to be dropped off at the park in the morning.  No big deal right?  WRONG!  Unbeknown to us, on an average summer morning with good weather, Baxter can easily reach capacity and start turning folks away at the gate by 7am!  We know this because our friend Kiddo had walked into the park the night before (like we had planned to) and was denied entry to the park on Friday morning.  This girl walked 2175 miles from Georgia, and was told to "come back tomorrow."  What a bummer!!  We, on the other hand, parked the truck just outside of the park, walked the ten miles into the park (Caboose included) and were able to summit Katahdin on the technicality that we didn't have a vehicle (I guess it's kindof hard to tell folks that just walked ten miles to turn around and go home).  I like to think that this blog is a fairly educational and scholarly source, so I'd like to point out the important lesson that is to be learned here:  procrastination and overall laziness CAN, just occasionally, work to your absolute advantage.  Sometimes the over-achievers get the raw deal.

So, up Katahdin we went.  True to form, we started about seven minutes before the cut off time.  Haha, most folks must start their ascent by 6:00am.  We calmly assured the ranger that we were in no danger of failing to be back down by 5:00pm with an 11:00am start.  Once again though, the day hiker clothes and absence of thru-hiker funky smell weren't helping our cause to convince the unknowing ranger of our qualifications.  "5 miles and 4,500ft," I thought, "Pffff, we can get on top of that in 2 hours."  (The signs at the park recommend allotting 5 or 6 hours one way?!?! Haha, I'm no superstar, but this estimate must have been made with the absolute worst case scenario in mind...oh, and the most arthritic and un-athletic 98-year-old hiker.)  The hike quickly turned into a rock-scrambly climb (sometimes surprisingly vertical and dangerous) and we realized with a strange satisfaction that ole Katahdin had no intentions of letting its reputation as the trail's most technical climb down.  I say that we were happy about this because when you reach the end of something so long, you almost want it to go out with a real BANG!  We weren't disappointed.  When hand and footholds weren't available, pieces of rebar had been soldered into the rock.  It reminded me of a jungle gym at times--so much fun!  Spirits were sky-high as we passed the crux of the climb.  The ground leveled-out considerably about two miles from the summit, and Loop and I enjoyed entertaining Caboose by re-enacting scenes from The Matrix as we strolled over the gradually inclining, barren rock leading to the tip-top.  I don't know why, but Keanu Reeves' acting prowess has been the mainstay of conversation (when time needs filling) for the many-month duration of this trip.  When the woods grew close around the trail, we had to simply settle for a husky-voiced, "I know Kung Fu."  But, when space permits, there's nothing quite so gratifying as role-playing the final fight scene where Neo comes back to life and pummels the agents.  Sorry, I totally geeked out there.  Geek out complete.

I can't describe the feeling that I had (I'm sure it was pretty similar for Loop and Caboose) when I caught sight of the sign sitting on top of the Mountain that I've been pursuing for the past 5 months.  I'd like to write something really poetic, but the reality is that it felt mostly like finishing a task and ending a chapter.  I could almost feel the trip and the last 5 months slide away.  Wild.  Everything we know is fleeting.  Even the most difficult, the most crooked and the seemingly-never-ending are only here for a little while.  I don't mean this to sound melancholy, because the truth is that I'm glad to be through with this adventure, but it does have a bittersweet taste.  It's just hard to imagine, when it's raining and 33 degrees and you're wet and cold and hungry and you've got 1800 miles to go, that you'll blink and be standing at the end of your journey with the sun on your face, looking back on weeks and weeks of just pushing-on.  Do I even need to point out the lesson to be learned here?  Life's awfully short folks.  And we can sure spend a lot of the time we've been given here wishing that we were in a different situation.  Be very careful though--it's only here for a little while.

We high-fived and hugged and laughed (surprisingly, no tears were shed) and took a bunch of pictures and hugged some more and called home and coated each other with the contents of an insanely cheap bottle of champagne, and then we walked down and left the mountain behind us.  It felt good and right and complete to finally be walking away from Mt. Katahdin.  Kiddo really won the gold star friend award by driving our truck around to the front gate of the park so that we could hitch an easy ride out of the park and back to Edmund after hiking down.  Thanks again Kiddo, and congrats on knocking out those 2,181 miles!

It was right around 5:00 by the time Loop, Tiger, Caboose and I made it to the truck (what with hiking down, sitting around, hitching a 5-mile ride @ 20mph out of the park, etc.), so we loaded up quickly and made a B-line to hwy 95.  We were mainly eager to pay lots of tolls, but also eager to grab some food in Bangor (approx. 70 miles south) and get on down to the Portland area to drop Tiger off and head toward Little Ossipee Lake for a few days with Loop's family.  Quick quiz:  What did the hikers choose as a celebration meal?  Was it A)Top quality seafood from a coastal region? B)Juicy Steaks at a Porterhouse? or C)Lots and lots and lots of chips and salsa and burritos and rice and beans at a Mexican joint?  If you guessed A or B, you haven't been following this blog at all!  We got in too late to hang out on Friday night, but had a blast with Loop's cousins on Saturday and Sunday, dock-sitting, steak eating, skiing, kayaking, swimming, movie-watching, rummy-playing, etc. Thank you again Ed, Jeanne, Kerry and Missy for letting us crash your place!  Every thru-hike should unwind this way!!

That catches you folks up.  Caboose and I parted ways with Loophole on Monday morning and drove back into Portland to explore the town a bit.  We got to see some friends from home, Jonathan and Nicole and Caleb Davis (JD is working out his residency at the Maine Medical Center in Portland) for a few minutes before we hit the road again to head south to Concord, Mass.  We're currently holed-up in a historic Inn, enjoying more air conditioning and a comfy bed.  We spent the day in Boston today, and will be taking our time making our way home with the remainder of the week.  What a journey this has been.  All glory to our Lord and Savior, for we know that ALL good things come straight from Him.  Have I already said "Thank You?"  Thank you, folks at home, friends and family that helped us along the way, food sponsors, and everyone else who's had a part in supporting us on our trek.  We're so blessed to have had you alongside us throughout this trip.  May God bless each of you for your generosity towards us.  Thank you, and thanks again.  You stay classy, we'll keep the adventures coming.  This is Upstate, signing out.  VIVA LA MONKEY TRIBE!

you know...road support
Road Support 

Upstate & Tiger walkin' into the woods...
Upstate & Tiger walkin' into the woods for what was supposed to be the last 27 miles...

the "cabin" we stayed in our last night
our "cabin" the last night
with Kathy, Kiddo, Upstate, Loop, Tiger & myself

just one from the photo shoot...
we're pumped to get on the trail to Katahdin (:

Me & Mike!
here we go...

Upstate, Caboose, Loop (:
Upstate, me & Loop 
The Monkey Tribe 

Loop, Tiger, Caboose, Upstate (:
The Monkey Tribe & Tiger

Can you handle that we only have 5.2 miles to the END?!
Can you believe we only have 5.2 miles to the end?! I can't!

Loop stretchin' hahahahaha
Loop gettin' his stretch on before the biggest climb ever

the Matrix ... on the way to the top
the Matrix .. if you only knew


Loop plankin' the Katahdin sign
Plankin' the sign..

Town Gut
Town Gut at it's finest

D O M I N A T E D 

Mike at the LAKE in Maine! (: He's lovin' it
loving life at the lake 

Grady, Brock & Me chillin' on the boat
Grady, Brock & Me enjoyin' the boat ride! 

August 3, 2011

While the boys are hikin'

While the boys have been hikin' their butts off, I've gotten to really enjoy Maine [for the most part]. I've done some exploring, shopping, walkin' around, and even a little hiking. Let me just tell you - we are in the back woods of Maine. These little towns, if you can even call them that, aren't much of anything. There has been the rare gem in the mix - like Rangeley & Greenville...but other than that, it ain't much. I am so thankful for these last two weeks of this journey. They've definitely made me remember the joys of the trek & already I'm smiling on this adventure. We recently passed through Caratunk, Monson, & Greenville...and now I sit in Millinocket, ME once again taking advantage of the public library.

Let me take you through our last week on the trail, starting in Caratunk. First, I'm not sure how Caratunk even makes the map. This "town" makes Fountain Inn look like a booming metropolis. [I'm not hating, trust me..I love Ft. Inn, but I know it's not big!] There were maybe 12 houses & a P.O. that operated out of an old house, therefore it makes the map as a town. There wasn't even anywhere to re-supply! We called around looking for a place to stay, "on account of rain," of course & ended up at the Sterling Inn, a quaint B & B. We headed up the road for dinner at Northern Outdoors Resort - a one stop shop for everything you could want to do & more in the area. After dinner, we headed back to the inn for dessert with the gang: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Ice Cream [dessert after every meal would be OK if I were hiking...I'm doomed when I come home!]. The boys & Kiddo got on the trail the next morning for a really big day...thirty-ish miles to be exact - to make it from Caratunk to Monson. Kathy [Kiddo's mom] & I  explored Monson [what there was to explore] and decided we'd check out Greenville because it was a much bigger town. However, we spent two hours trying to come up with lodging for the 6 of us & ended up back in Monson at the Lakeshore House. This was actually  a treat & we got a great deal for it because they had to make room for us! It was also a great spot for our last zero day. It was right on the lake - everyone but me & Mike enjoyed the water [he had food poisoning from the night before, so we watched movies & he slept for most of the day]. A zero was a must before entering the "100 miles of wilderness" - where they're having to hike high 20's - 30 miles a day to make the road crossings where I'm waiting. (:

After dropping the boys off at the 112 mile mark between Monson & Greenville, I headed to Greenville to enjoy one more afternoon of civilization before entering the "100 miles of wilderness" myself. Greenville really was a cute little town, right on Moosehead Lake. There were shops of every sort, with furniture, jellies & jams, t-shirts, and even moose antlers for sale. If these bad boys weren't so dang expensive I'd be bringin' some back with me for sure. Don't judge. After stopping by the local pharmacy for some Swedish Fish for Mike, I hopped in the car & headed to my first pick up point in the wilderness: Katahdin Iron Works road. Too bad there aren't any hostels in the wilderness. It rained for most of the evening, meaning we had to set up camp in the rain & that our hikers were wet when they made it in ... past dark. I remember all too well the unpleasantness of hiking wet & in the dark, so I was feeling really bad for them [and you should too -- it gets really cold here when it rains!]. We ate a late dinner of tortillas with rice, beans, & corn and went right to bed. Kiddo got out early the next AM - but the boys decided they'd rather get a little extra sleep since they got in so late - so I dropped them off at the trail around 9:30. My next stop wasn't but about 20 miles up the road, so I stopped for a cup of coffee before heading that way [again, in a "how does this town make the map" town]. When I got to the gate, it was closed down - typically you have to pay to drive down these logging roads, but I took advantage of no one being there & let myself in (: That meant that I spent most of the day in the car at the AT crossing, but I was able to get the tents to dry a little, got camp set up, & had a spaghetti dinner waiting for the boys when they finally tramped out of the woods. AND after dinner, two flip-floppers made a fire, so we enjoyed our S'MORES treats from Mere & DP (: [thanks guys!].

Now, I'm in the "in between nothing & barely a town" town of Millinocket - they did have a McDonalds, so that counts for something! I'll be on the road once again here shortly--at the end of the day the boys & Kiddo will have 32.5 miles go to to reach Katahdin .. and ONE MORE DAY OF HIKING!! Katahdin on Friday is "just for fun" (: Bring it on!!

wild flowers. you know i had to.
wild flowers - you know I had to

"cool as a moose"
"cool as a moose"
I thought this may be my only siting of a moose..but I saw a real one two nights ago!! 

We found OTT & Battlecat!!
we found OTT & Battlecat - our friends from VA! (: good stuff!

Yes, this is a goat. No, it is not considered a "pack animal" ...
Yes this is a goat. Our first experience with a goat on the trail -- technically you aren't allowed to have "pack-animals" but these guys don't count because they're too small [even though he weighed almost 200lbs!]

Mike demonstrating how he was walkin' up the mountain
Mike demonstrating how he walked up the mountain. Old man style 

the Sterling Inn, where we stayed near Caratunk, ME
the Sterling Inn

for you dad -- an old hardware store scale that was once part of the Sterling Inn
dad, this is for you--it's an old hardware scale that was used when at some point the inn was a hardware store!

an old church in Monson, ME
a beautiful old church in Monson

a gorgeous old building in Greenville, ME
an old, old building in Greenville

The Lakeshore Hostel where we stayed in Monson
the Lakeshore House where we stayed

beautiful! -- the view from the Lakeshore Hostel

more reflections
more reflections

Loop, Upstate, & Tiger w/ 112 MILES TO GO!
Loop, Upstate, & Tiger with 112 miles to go!

Greenville, ME. Almost as good as Greenville, SC...but not quite.
welcome to Greenville, ME! it's almost as good as Greenville, SC ...but not quite. 

a storms-a-movin-in

still comin' [yes, I know...I should be setting up camp instead of taking pictures..oh well]
hmmmmmm gettin' close 

i know..i should be setting up camp while it's not raining, but i couldn't help myself! 

August 1, 2011

With-in Site

Folks at home, what up?!  We’re in Maine!  And yes, we’ve been here for a few days now, but we are in stinkin’ Maine!  State numero 14.  We’ve also slated more than 2,000 miles of good old fashioned foot travel at this point—never thought I’d be able to say that.  Reminds me of that song by the Proclaimers (put on your best Scottish accent)...”I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more…”

Backtracking, let me give a brief recount of the White Mountains (my last entry was a bit inadequate).  Firstly, Face Jacket.  He’s our new Monkey Tribe member.  You’ve seen him in a few pictures now.  He’s a fellow 25-year-old southerner (Mississippi) who started hiking with us at the beginning of the Whites.  One mention of Maine road support and he wasn’t wandering too far from the Monkey Tribe.  We’re happy to have him among the ranks of the elite.  The basic requirement for being on the team is that you have to be able to push out a 35+ mile day at last-minute’s notice to make up for a few days worth of sub par—swimming hole visiting—3 hour lunching—rock laying like a lizard in the sun—type hiking.  He’s up for it.  Secondly, Work-for-Stay.  There are enclosed and fully-staffed huts along the AT in the Whites that cater to the large number of summer hikers vacationing in the area.  Routinely, a night at one of these huts will run you $90-$130 per person, but if you’re a thru-hiker and you arrive at the right time (not too early in the afternoon, but before the other thru-hikers) they will allow you to help out with odd tasks around the hut in exchange for a roof over your head and the leftovers from the guests’ dinner.  We arrived at the Lake of the Clouds hut at 1:40 p.m. (which is about 3 hours too early, on account of the fact that there is plenty of afternoon left to push on to the next hut), but were accepted on the grounds that weather was too bad to summit Mt. Washington.  We listened happily from our dry seats at the dinner table to the rain nuking on the roof above us/ splattering on the windows around us.  Great night to NOT be in a tent at 6,000ft.  We broke down cardboard boxes, sorted out the lost and found and meticulously swept the dining hall as payment.  Usually, 3-5 thru hikers are allowed to work for stay on a given day, depending on the size of the hut.  However, since the Lakes of the Clouds hut is right at the foot of the most dangerous mountain (weather-wise) on the trail, and since weather was particularly bad, they allowed 14 of us to slide into their warm hut.  It definitely helped our case that we were at the biggest hut in the chain (it sleeps 96) and the usual hut crew was out and was being spelled by a mixture of old hut leaders from the 60’s and 70’s.  Just as grandparents are more accommodating and willing to bend the rules than 20-year olds, so are old Hutmen and Hutwomen more sympathetic than their younger and more current comrades on a rainy, cold evening.  So sympathetic in fact, that they broke code and actually let us dine with the guests like real people.  It’s generally accepted that thru-hikers (being non-paying guests) wait on the fringe of the dining hall or outside until the guests have eaten their fill, then file in to clean up the leftovers. This time, however, we hit the jackpot.  It felt nice to sit down with 13 of my fellow thru-hikers to a family style dinner.  “Pass the chicken please.”  “Will you please pour me another mug of cocoa?”  “Are you through with the broccoli?”  What a treat.  The weather even cleared up for our hike of Mt. Washington on the following morning.  It was wild to stand in 60mph winds and temps in the high 30s in the middle of July!  The environment up there is nuts.  And that was a nice day!

Fun level is off the charts now that Caboose is back.  Loop and I (and Face Jacket) are more like day-hikers than thru-hikers now—tiny packs filled with little more than a snack and some H2O, and clothes that are uncharacteristically clean.  We’ve all commented throughout the duration of this hike on how amazingly nice day hikers smell as they pass.  We always enjoy the scent trail of deodorant, shampoo, etc. as these folks pass by.  Undoubtedly, they experience a similar and inverse phenomenon in our wake as we pass.  But not anymore!  Now we’re thru-hikers incognito.  Barring Loophole’s massive beard, we really do fit the day-hiker bill.  Face Jacket is even wearing a pair of $28 WalMart issue Dr. Scholl’s tennis shoes because his Patagonia shoes blew up—these things scream, “There’s nothing that I enjoy more than an afternoon of bird watching in nature!”  A fanny pack would appropriately finish the costume.  And we’ve decided to use our under-cover mystique to the furthering of our trail entertainment when in the presence of greenhorn south bounders.  You can probably picture a conversation with a few of these folks, them full of adrenaline and excitement and expert advise (after their very impressive few weeks and 250 miles on the trail), and us listening with over-acted interest and curiosity and reverence.  It’d be like me sitting next to David Ortiz in street clothes, proudly sharing my best tips of swinging a baseball bat.  Haha.  “Don’t carry anything that you don’t need,” one fellow told us the other day as he washed his greasy cooking pot in the shallow pool of the only water source within miles.  We’ve decided to compile their best advice in the trail logs for our fellow north bounders to read and enjoy.  I can only imagine that these “SoBo’s” will read our names and notes in the journals for the next 2,000 miles and understand how silly they sounded!  All in good fun.

We’ve slowly stepped up the miles this week (days of 25, 25, 20, 36 and 33-miles) in order to be within striking distance of Mt. Katahdin by the end of next week.  The long days are always easier without a pack, and with Caboose waiting at the end with copious amounts of food, sodas, etc.  Every Monkey Tribe should have road support!  I can’t describe the feeling that I had the other day when I got to the end of a 13-mile trail run and sat down for a Little Debbie jumbo Fudge Round.  Bliss.  Sheer bliss.  Thank you again and again for sending food and notes with Caboose.  We are so blessed.  Thank you mostly for your continued prayers and support.  God’s been so generous with his provision over this trip.  Keep them coming—we’re so close to the finish line!  

rocks, rocks, rocks
rocks, rocks, rocks

ridge walking
ridge walkin'

i cant even explain the glory of this picture
i can't even describe the glory of this picture
[Face, Loop, & Upstate]

Upstate & Loop
Upstate & Loophole


Upstate & Loop at the West Peak
Upstate & Loop on the West Peak 

Loop, Tiger & Upstate enjoyin' the view
Loop, Tiger [our newest addition] and Upstate enjoyin' the view

mountains & lakes together 

at the 2000 [or 1200] mile mark!!!!
Mike at the 2000 mile mark!!! WHOOOHOOO!! & the 1200 mile mark for Brock! (: Good Job Boys!

at the summit
Loop at the summit!