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! 

1 comment:

  1. A message from Porter and Pace.

    The Humans carried their FULL packs the WHOLE way. The Monkey Tribe has nothing to offer us. LOL

    Seriously good luck on your final trek up Katahdin. You are always welcome at our home (Porter). God bless you all and congrats.

    Porter, Pace....and Dreamer too.

    DBI- spead it thick