Category Archives: Hiker Stories

To the Edge of the Ledge. McAfee’s Knob (06/04/13)

McAfee’s Knob is said to be the most photographed point on the AT, and with good reason. It’s incredibly beautiful and breathtaking. A jutting point of rock from the cliff-side and a sheer drop into the valley below.

At the edge of the ledge

At the edge of the ledge

Buckeye, Atreyu and I decided that we wanted a sunset and a sunrise on McAfee’s Knob. This was an ambitious proposal the required a 16.3 mile day up and down 2 significant and 1 medium sized mountains/hills, a stop at Dragon’s Tooth (another amazing sight) and a small resupply and stop at the 4 Pines Hostel. All before sunset.

Somehow we managed it. It’s still one of the most incredible achievements in my mind.

Starting off at the Pickle Branch Shelter, we got an early start which was quite a feat in itself. Buckeye is a habitual late sleeper now that he’d gotten used to his hammock, but he was actually the first one up. We beat feet the 4 miles to Dragon’s Tooth with a few others in town and made it up the craggy torturous path to the summit. A clear, cloudless day greeted us – with views for miles.

It's a bit of a climb to get to the top of the tooth, but well worth it for the views.

It’s a bit of a climb to get to the top of the tooth, but well worth it for the views.

We stayed for almost an hour on top of the Tooth. Around 11am we decided it was time to get moving – and wouldn’t it be nice if we could have some real food for lunch? You’d better believe it! So let’s roll on down to the 4 Pines Hostel and go to the amazing gas station up the road for pizza! So we did.

One of the best things about hiking with Buckeye and Atreyu? They are never short of conversation or song. They are strong, fast hikers but they have fun everyday together. Sometimes they hook the little portable speaker up and play techno, or indie. Sometimes there are long involved conversations about women, philosophy or politics. But even when they disagree they respect each other – it’s a rare thing to find friends like these.

4 Pines is a converted 4 car garage run by Joe. He’s a hell of a guy – he took me in the previous year when I was freezing after Sandy and fed me fresh venison, gave me a pile of blankets and said “go nuts with the wood stove.” So when we made it to his place for lunch he took us down to the gas station. Pizza, slushies, chips, hot dogs, beer. The whole nine yards for lunch. We played a little cornhole (beanbag toss for all you Yankees) and seriously contemplated if we wanted to do another 10 miles. “We could stay here tonight and make it a short day tomorrow…”

The other great thing about Buckeye and Atreyu? They never shirk from a challenge. At 3:30 we finally got going. The terrain between 4 Pines and McAfee’s is ridgeline and rugged. You hug the tops and dip down into the saddles, gaining and losing 100 feet sections of altitude every 1/4 mile. You climb and scramble in places.

Man if they didn't have this sign here, I never would have known!

Man if they didn’t have this sign here, I never would have known!

We made it to the McAfee’s knob parking lot just before 7pm. The sun was starting to get lower in the sky – sunset was around 8:15 and we still had almost 3.5 miles to cover to the top. So we beat feet up the side of the mountain. The trail is well maintained, and a fairly easy climb until the last mile or so when you start going up steeply. We were on track and on pace.

the list

Until we found a cell phone.

Atreyu: “It’s gotta be the cute girls we passed on our way up, about 10 minutes ago!”

Buckeye: “Maybe. But they’re probably already back at the parking lot by now. We’re going up.”

Spice: “So… what are we doing? Sunset is so close!.”

At that moment, the phone rang. Atreyu answered it. “Yes we’ve got your phone! I’ll bring it down for you!.”

Buckeye + Spice: “You’re going to do what?”

Ateryu: “I’m going to take my pack off and run the phone down. You guys keep going, I’ll meet you at the top.”

Spice: “If you do that, we’ll take your pack with us. I’ll wear it on the front and double pack it.”

So off Atreyu bounded, down the path we’d just come up. Buckeye strapped Atreyu’s pack onto my chest. I’m sure I cut a ridiculous figure in that moment, hiking up the mountain side with two packs on. But if it meant that Atreyu could catch up with us faster, it was worth it. Atreyu managed to catch up with us a mile from the summit, which was good because I was DYING carrying two packs together.

And we made it. All the way to the top for sunset. The three of us almost were running by the time we got there, because we were so sure we were going to miss it. But we didn’t. We’d managed to push a 4 mile and hour pace or more by the time we’d gotten to the top. That’s a feat for any extended period of time. It was all worth it though.

Panorama view of Atreyu

Panorama view of Atreyu

I’ve heard people say that they don’t derive any pleasure from accomplishing miles or getting somewhere. That they don’t measure their achievements by getting to X place by Y time. That may be all well and good for them most of the time, but I’ve never been able to subscribe to that theory. Getting somewhere, achieving something in the face of adversity, pushing yourself to the limit and winning – there is something valuable about that to me. Getting to McAffe’s knob for sunset was such an achievement. We all felt it and we were all filled a beautiful glow that night.

Amusingly, the photos from sunset? Completely outclassed by the photos from the sunrise the next morning.

Crane Kick silliness

Crane Kick silliness

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“It’s because we think about it every single day.”

I hiked with Carry-On in 2012. She recently went back out the AT to do a little section south to Springer. She wrote this and I ended up crying.

When I read things like this, it makes me reevaluate what I want to do again. I think about the Trail everyday. Things will happen and I’ll flashback to a moment. I’ll smell something and remember an instant. Everyday.

I think about the Trail every single day.

It changed me – and I’m not sure if that change makes me fit for normal society anymore.

Busted Ankles and the Will to Finish

I talked about Damselfly awhile ago in and earlier post but left her story unfinished because it’s one that shows Damselfly’s other amazing characteristics: not just smart, funny and happy – but a drive to finish.

A drive to finish against all odds and any obstacles she faced.

When she was coming out of Hanover, NH Damselfly slipped on some lose pine needles, or perhaps a small rock. It doesn’t really matter what it was exactly that she slipped, it only matters when happened when she hit the ground.

She twisted her ankle. Badly. It swelled up. Bruised. Turned odd colors. It was probably more than a strain or a twist. It was at the very least – slightly broken.

Her ankle was busted. Her hike was probably over.

Damselfly was able to limp back to town, slowly with help from other hikers. She rested some, iced it a little and took anti-inflamatory medication. She waited. When I saw her she had fallen three days before hand, and her ankle was still swollen to the size of a grapefruit.

How big is that you ask? Well if you don’t have a grapefruit handy, go find yourself a softball. About that size. Perhaps wrap both hands around your ankle – that might be equivalent, but not quite. It was bad to look at too beyond the swelling – it was yellow and purple and blue – all those disgusting colors you get from bruises as they try valiantly to heal.

“Oh I’m going to hike out of here tomorrow I think” Said Damselfly, casually as if it was no big deal.

“On that? On the ankle that can’t support any weight, that you’re hobbling on and can’t carry a pack with?”

“Sure – I’m going to slackpack, no problem. It’ll help it to heal.” For those who don’t know, a slackpack is when you don’t carry your full pack and instead leave it with someone else who will pick you up at the end of the day.

You couldn’t tell Damselfly no. You couldn’t make her see reason that if she walked on her busted ankle, she might damage it forever. She might not be able to have it heal properly without surgery perhaps. She was determined she was going to get to Katahdin on her own power one way or another.

So she did. She hiked out of town and got a few miles and then had to get picked up because her ankle hurt too much. So she took another two days off. Then tried again. She got a few more miles out – then had to get picked up again. Her friend Splash stayed with her for a lot of it, making sure she got through safely. She was doing it. Slowly but surely.

It took her a lot longer than she wanted. She had to hitch a little to get there. She spent a little more money than she thought she would and had to sacrifice things along the way to get there. But she got there.

I saw Damselfly again in Monson, Maine, the last town stop before the 100 Mile Wilderness and Katahdin. She was doing some work for stay at the Lake Shore House, and the owner Rebecca was taking care of her (Stop there hikers! It’s the best place in town!) and trying to make sure she stayed off her ankle. I talked with her a little there. Her ankle wasn’t swollen as much, she could put weight on it again. She wasn’t anywhere near 100% – hell she probably wasn’t 60% – but she was leaving soon and was going to walk as much as she could to get to Katahdin. She was going to finish under her own power. Stubborn lady that she is, she knew she had to.

And she did. Damselfly summited Katahdin on October 15, 2013. She walked up there all by herself.

I talked with her a month or so later. It’s always good to talk to your hiker friends – you love them all so dearly. Family.

“You guys were my summit date…. you were my heart-group”

Long distance hikers get so invested in our trail. Our walk. We meet people who become family – better than family even. These are the people you choose to be with in a way that few others ever can understand. Sometimes things happen  that makes the people you care about suffer. They fall and bust an ankle, maybe they run out of money and have to go home. Perhaps they just get tired and can’t deal with it anymore. Whatever the reason, when they leave you, you cry a little for them – because they are gone.

When people ask me for stories about truly inspirational people that I’ve met on the trail, Damselfly’s story is the one I use most often.

“Who the hell is so stubborn that they finish a hike like that on a busted ankle, limping the whole way? Why would they put themselves through all that pain? Just to prove something?”

I always say “No. She wasn’t out to prove something, she wasn’t stubborn like you’re thinking. She was in love, and that love let her finish. She loved something so dearly that it hurt too badly to even think about getting off.”

And that is Damselfly. Intelligent. Witty. Happy. Bubbly. Beautiful. Stubborn.

In Love.

With the trail and all it’s people.

so happy

Damselfly snagged herself a fish with Limpin’ Eagle

4153 Miles in a Year

I met City Slicker on my 4th day on trail in 2012.

“I remember meeting you, you had that massive 50 pound pack and you had a 20 degree bag in the middle of July in Maine. You. Were. An. Idiot.”

I was. I knew it – what I thought I had known about the AT wasn’t anything like what it really was. I had thought that the camping experience I had would prepare me for what I was doing, where I was going. So very wrong.

City Slicker was hiking north to Katahdin with a young man named Figs. They were meeting Fig’s grandfather at the end so they could climb together, in three days. They were going to push 3 back to back 25 mile days – which is a challenge in Maine. We had all gotten to the shelter at the same time, right as night was falling. I was amazed as the unpacked their food – fig newtons, jerky, Oreos  and two lipton sides apiece. A an easy 1200 calorie meal, and they both were still hungry afterwards.

I stood in awe of them, and listened to their casual and practiced chatter as they ate and did their camp chores. I learned that City Slicker was going to ping-pong and head south from Hanover in a few weeks, just so he could keep hiking. They told me about where to stop in NH – Chet’s place was penciled into my guide book, and Rob Bird’s number for Dalton Mass was added. Important thing – like you have to be at the door of On The Edge Farm in VT if you want a fresh pie. The important things. And the next morning, they hiked out with a nod and twinkle in their eyes- they were almost done.

Going through the Trail-side museum - City Slicker knew all the history behind the animals.

Going through the Trail-side museum – City Slicker knew all the history behind the animals.

Skip forward a bit, some weeks passed and my pack got lighter, my days got longer and I thought I knew more about the trail. I did a fast 14 miles into the RPH shelter in NY for an early day, because a huge front was moving in and I had heard you could order pizza at the shelter.

I wander in and there is a thin man there, long beard and sporting a fresh mohawk not unlike my own, which I had gotten at Rob Bird’s hostel, the Birdcage. I said a hello and snagged the shelter log.

“Oh City Slicker has been here. Man I was hoping to catch up to him.”

“Really? Why is that?”

“Oh I met him back in Maine when he was going north, and I was just starting. He had said he was going to yo-yo back down to Springer, and he seemed pretty cool.”

“Well you’re in luck – because that’s who I am!”

I hadn’t even recognized him. He remembered me though – and he had never expected to see me again. “Tough bastard to make it all the way down here.”

We hiked together for awhile – he told me all kinds of stories from the trail and his home of Boston. He’d been hiking for almost 10 years on the AT, and been constantly on trail for the last 4 or so. In the winter he used to go out to Colorado and ski, but he had decided this year to just hike through the winter. Just because.

I saw City Slicker again in 2013 at Trail Days, and then again at Harpers Ferry. He hiked together for a bit again we talked. He called me through the winter when I was off trail, and again when I finished this year. His advice helped me pull through the end of the relationship I was in, and helped keep things in perspective.

But the real treat was when he called me last night.

“I did the math for 2013 – I ended up with 4,153.4 miles this year.”

So if you hike in 2014 – you’ll see City Slicker out there. He’ll head north and then south – because he can. And when you do see him, tell him that Dr. Spice says hello, and loves him dearly. And then ask him where the next good bar is – because he knows every single inch of the trail. And he’s a wonderful human being for it.

30 Hours of Driving for Diva

When I reached Monson Maine in 2012, it was my first extended encountered with northbound hikers. It was the first I was able to sit and talk with them, learn from them and generally listen to their stories. They had so many, and were equally sad and thrilled to be finishing.

It is much the same way I would feel months later when I returned on my own Northbound hike.

The Lakeshore House was where I met Moldy Toe and Diva, the first Southbound hikers I would meet and hike with. They were mid 20s, had been married for less than a year and had started their hike together. Moldy Toe had been recovering at the Lakeshore House for about a week, as his toe had become infected in the last 2 days in the 100 mile wilderness, and turned into a serious issue.

Originally, Moldy Toe and Diva had started together, sumitted Katahdin and then set out south. 7 miles into the 100 mile wilderness, Diva decided she just couldn’t do it. But this was Moldy Toe’s dream, and she didn’t, couldn’t deny him that dream. So she said she’d go home and he should continue on the hike and finish, because this was something he had to do.

That’s some love right there. So Diva gave him the gear out of her pack that he needed, took the gear he didn’t need anymore and turned around to the Golden road and hitched back to Millinocket and went home to Ohio.

A week goes by, Moldy Toe gets his infected toe (which spawns his name) and he calls Diva to let her know what’s going on. Diva decides she can’t let him recover alone, so she drives from Ohio to Maine to be with him. A hell of a drive indeed.  She stays with him for a week while he recovers: they go sightseeing on the Maine coast, drive through the country side and generally have a good time. I meet them both at the hostel on their last day together, as Moldy’s toe has healed, he’s setting off in the morning.

Moldy and Diva

Moldy and Diva

Diva and Moldy say goodbye and I meet Moldy at the shelter out of town where we end up staying the night as Diva drives 15 hours home. He tells me the story and I stand in a little awe of it – a dedicated team that knows they have to let the other do what they want.

We set off the next morning and head south, hoping to cover about 17 miles so we can cross the Kennebec river by ferry early the next day. Around 4pm we stop at a shelter to refill water and snack, and figure out how much farther we’re going. “Another 2 miles should do it, there’s a water source and a ford – we can ford and then set up camp and eat.”

We depart the shelter. And run smack into Diva who is walking North.

Moldy’s mouth was agape, his jaw somewhere down around his ankles.

Diva had decided upon returning to Ohio that shouldn’t couldn’t stand to be without him. She had gone home the first time because he pack was too heavy for her and she wasn’t truly invested in the hike. Now she was. She had put only the bare essentials in her pack, driven back to Monson and then gotten a hitch to Caratunk, where she had told the whole town to watch for Moldy and not let him leave without. Then she’d gone to the ferry, told the ferryman the story and asked him if Moldy had crossed already. “No? Well I’ll just hike north to meet him.”

Picking blueberries in Maine was always a worthwhile past-time.

Picking blueberries in Maine was always a worthwhile past-time.

She’d started hiking north at 10am. She only had a liter of water and snack since them, mostly Mike & Ikes. She’d stopped to read every register, checked every crossing to find her husband so she could be with him.

Moldy and Diva were back together and hiking.

We camped by the river ford that night, and pooled our food together to have cheddar and broccoli tuna melt. Diva and Moldy stayed up and discussed what they were going to do the next day.

I didn’t see them much the next day, they got into an argument over the car and what to do with it. They got off the trail. But I think they were okay with that decision. Diva because she’d finally told Moldy what she wanted from him, and Moldy because he’d taken the opportunity to at least try at his dream.

I’d like to think they are happy back in Ohio somewhere. Though really – who is happy in Ohio? (I kid I kid… except for Cleavland.)

Damselfy’s Insect Emporium

“Oh look at this one! It’s a (long sounding latin name I still never remember.)”

Just like she was

Damselfly was always finding new and interesting insects when we hiked. It was incredibly interesting to watch.

I heard about Damselfly long before I ever met her.

“Did you hear about the new chick that got on the Trail in Harper’s Ferry? She’s pretty hot! Smart too! She’s hiking with Uncle Buck!”

“I thought you said she was smart. Why is she hiking with Uncle Buck….”

When I met Damselfly it was really in passing into Duncannon PA. I had made it to town for the Billville hiker feed and a weekend of fun and zero days. She was stopping in town for 1 day to meet up with her step-dad, who wanted to hike with her for a week or two. He was leaving his car at the Doyle.

I don’t even remember what really sparked the conversation, but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with her gear, and how it looked heavy from where I was, drunk and leaning out of the second floor fire escape door.

“No worries! Shakedown in 3 minutes or less guaranteed to lighten you by 5 pounds or an ice cream novelty!”

Her step-dad had all manner of interesting heavy things. His pack was… heavy. More than a little heavy. Possibly very. He had a solid core air mattress that weighed more than my shelter and all my sleeping gear.

Damselfly was a little better off, and she lost a few things there that helped. I tried to convince them to stay another day and enjoy the hikers and the festivities. But she wanted to hike. She wanted to hike a lot.

It was the first person in awhile I had found who was still eager everyday to get up and hike. Maybe it was because she still had fresh legs, she didn’t know what the score was, or how monotonous it had gotten. Or how PA sucked.

She was happy to be there. It was like being in Georgia all over again. For her it was.

I told her I’d catch up to her in a few days. When I did it was 100 degrees, awful bugs and terrible terrain. He step-dad had gotten off the trail already and was headed home.

Serious hiking faces here folks. She's terrible at hiding the smile even when she's tiffed.

Serious hiking faces here folks. She’s terrible at hiding the smile even when she’s tiffed.

But you couldn’t keep Damselfly down. Even through all the awfulness of PA when I hiked with her, she was smiling and happy. She never expressed a moment of true despair or negativity. Sure she bitched a bit about the rocks, heat and bugs – but the whole time she did it she was smiling. Happy to be out in the world, in the woods and not at her old job or in school anymore. She was alive and unstressed.

It was like watching a bird fly for the first time. Beautiful.

Damselfly got her name because she’s an entomologist. She’s a bug person. A really really smart bug person. She knew the names of everything that was around – and even gave me the official latin name for the “no-see-ums” and biting gnats that plagued us in PA. Of course I don’t remember what they were, but she knew them. I remember camping with her one night and she knew all sorts of things about the fireflies that came out to play.

Sometimes you hike with someone who has good stories to tell. Someone who provides humor or life lessons through their tales. Other times your find people who have such a vast knowledge and intelligence on a subject(s) that you are awed by them. Others have the positive, always sunny attitudes that just lift your day.

Damselfly was all of that. Every single day I ever spent near her was a good one. She made the day better – instilled knowledge and positive feelings and love with every step and word, despite the pain she had and was dealing with. It left me in awe of her mental and physical fortitude. It made me a little jealous.

I knew she’d get to the end.

She’s a good person to be around. She’s one I miss quite a bit.

 

Embrace The Brutality

All books about hiking suck

-Johnny Thunder

The same can usually be said about movies. I mean lets face it – who really wants to read about the daily grind that hikers have  – we get up, we eat, we fart, we walk a bunch and then we eat some more. Sometimes we see things – usually we just eat more. Then we go to sleep.

We’re living the life!

When you see it onscreen it can be the same thing – boring. Sometimes to the point of being painful. I’ve seen more than a few movies and documentaries, and especially books that make me wonder what the point was. Reading or watching them is like pulling teeth. Painful.

Luckily I have a remedy for you… TBW Productions! Run by Jester! A Triple Crowner with a good camera hand and editing skills, a love of cheese and a wicked sense of humor.

I was lucky enough to see his newest film, “Embrace the Brutality” about the CDT (Continental Divide Trail) in Duncannon, PA at the Billville Hiker Feed and loved it.

I bought it when I got home to watch again, along with his first film, “Wizard of the PCT.”

It gave me itchy feet. It made me want to hike again. To forget all the pain in my knee and take off like a lunatic.

ETB is one of the better trail films of late in my opinion, and certainly much better than any of the books I’ve seen. It focuses on the things that matter – the hikers and what they do. Anyone can write about how much the weather sucked, or how many miles they did. They can show you pictures and movies of all the pretty sights – and this movie does that. But to show the soul of a long distance trail, you have to talk to the people.

It helps that all the people he hikes with are hilarious and full of wacky antics. They aren’t putting a show on for the camera either – they are just like this on a normal basis.

I could go on at length about this. I won’t. Instead I suggest you go out and buy this. I think that it’s well worth the price – and it certainly helps fill the void that winter leaves in you.

Head on over to http://www.tbwproductions.com/ and join the zany crew of Team Bad Wizard as they tackle the CDT – and even the PCT!

“We’re going to Maine…”

Life never was the same

Where the Long Trail and the AT split in Vermont, this poem exists.

Life never was the same. And everyday I’ve been thankful for that fact.

The Madison Gulf Trail

There have been a moments so far where I have actively feared for my life. I was run off the road on a major highway when I was 20 by a man who wasn’t paying attention. In the 15 seconds that took, everything was instinctual because it happened so fast. I had no moments during the act to think about what was going on – only afterwards did I look back and reflect on almost dying.

The Madison Gulf Trail descent I did however, gave ample time to consider my death.

In the White Mountains, you spend the majority of your time far above tree line, exposed the whole time to the elements and the storms that routinely roll through.

But it is quite beautiful

Once you’re in the Presidential’s section, you’re exposed the whole way

Luckily there are Huts run by the Appalachian Mountain Club (here after referred to as AMC – or Appalachian Money Club) that allow thru-hikers to stop and rest at, dry out a little and sometimes, if you’re lucky, spend the night. By spend the night, I mean they take 2 hikers, let them sleep on the floor, do some sort of work for stay and require them to be out before any other guests are up. Or you can pay $124 to spend the night (prices vary by day of the week and whether your an AMC member, but it’s always over $100)

When we arrived at Maddison Spring Hut, Roadkill and I had been walking in the freezing rain, high wind and visibility out to 25 feet. It was 1:30 in the afternoon and we were already exhausted, Roadkill was near incoherent, hypothermic and we were both wet. We were able to get inside the hut, take our packs off and at least change out of our sopping wet clothes for a bit, but the inside of the hut was as cold as outside. At least we were out of the wind.

Two bowls of mushroom soup apiece and some coffee helped the situation, but we were still left with the weather issue. According to the forecast, hurricane force winds were predicted through the evening above treeline, with bad visibility, rain and lightning. Not weather you want to be above treeline for – and the descent from Madison was completely exposed for 2 miles, down the Osgood Path.

I looked at the maps that were available at the hut, and decided to ask the AMC employee there if there were any alternatives.

“Hey – I know it’s still kind of early, but what are the chances we can get a work for stay tonight at the hut here?”

“None- it’s too early and I can’t take you.”

“Not even if it’s a life threatening issue? I mean, we’re wet, frozen and she’s a bit hypothermic. You can’t make any exceptions?”

“Nope – best I can say is there is a campsite a mile away off the AT that you can stay at, it’s got trees.”

Now that would have been 45 minutes walk just for a campsite exposed to the cold and rain. The night before had been cold, the night before that had been frozen (as in frost on everything frozen) and if we were wet, that could be a death sentence.

“Ok then, if you won’t let us stay what’s the easiest way off the mountain? I know Osgood is exposed the whole way down… and if there is lightning and hurricane winds,  I don’t know how I feel about doing that all the way down. Do you have any suggestions?”

“Well you could go down the Madison Gulf Trail. It goes down to tree line really fast.”

“Have you hiked it before? Is it doable?”

“Sure I hike it all the time! Piece of cake.”

And right here was my first mistake. I took advice from someone who wasn’t a thru-hiker. I trusted someone who wasn’t actually hiking all day, and who I knew was probably spending most of his time smoking up. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s the same way I don’t trust day hikers measurements of miles or time.

“So all we have to do is take the Madison Gulf Trail and it’ll get us below treeline really quickly? And it’s not too bad difficulty wise?”

“Right!”

So we left Madison, putting on our wet clothes again, saving our dry stuff for the end of the day. According to the map, it was about 3 miles down the Madison Gulf Trail to reconnect with the AT. “No Problem!” I thought. “We can be in Gorham tonight if we want, it’s only 2:30!”

How wrong I was. My second mistake was not turning us around when we hit this

I should be dead

The first of many obstacles on the Madison Gulf Trail. For reference, the camera is being held level to where the horizon should be.

We couldn’t see more then 2 or 3 dozen feet. We slid and scrambled down wet boulders, the descent at more than 45 degrees, the rocks offering no purchase. There was no sign to warn us of this, the blue blazes were few and far between. It was hell.

But we did get to treeline quickly. I saw the tree come closer out of the fog and rain and thought “oh thank you God. Trees, all this stupidity is over now, no problem.”

It was the beginning of the real hell .

Once we were in the trees the trail got different. Not better – sometimes worse. The rocks and roots and trees were at an angle, everything was wet and there were more than a few times we weren’t sure whether we were still on the trail. We’d be teased by a blue blaze every so often, just as we were teased by flat trail every so often. Every 20 minutes or so, the trail would level out, we’d walk on normal dirt and I’d give a sigh of relief. The end was here, finally! No. Not at all. Just a tease.

Not even the worst

We did this for 4 hours. Hell. This isn’t even the worst part – I wasn’t able to get my camera out for the worst parts.

The worst was yet to come. The part that almost killed the two of us was yet to come.

We saw a nice flat spot – perfect to camp in even below us. We finally climbed down to it – YES! The end! Where does the trail go? Oh, here is a blue blaze down to our left. We followed it.

Right to a a 50 foot drop down a waterfall.

There is no way this is the trail, but there is a blaze here! How do we get down? We were standing on top of a cliff with a 50 foot drop, a waterfall and no visible way down.

There looked to be handholds in the middle, where a large house sized boulder jutted out of the face. There were trees on the right side, maybe the path was there. I took my pack off and decided to investigate. I was able to spider climb the 10 feet to a small depression just short of the edge, and it did indeed look as if this was the way to go.

“Ok Roadkill, I think you can butt slide down here slowly, get to this depression and then slide over to the right and get down. I’ll stay here, spread eagled to help you.”

She started to slide down, slowly, hands splayed on the rock trying for any bit of purchase. Then she started to slide faster and I saw her face – she had no control.

10 feet isn’t that far. Not really. She started sliding and I saw it in an instant – she’d go over the edge and fall 50 feet. Die.

My hand let go of it’s tiny hold in the rock. My arm shot out and somehow got between her back and her pack, and I grabbed her straps. She stopped inches from the edge. I saved her.

My heart started beating again.

She slid over and was able to get down to the trees on the right. I breathed again. Now it was my turn. I had to climb up and get my pack, and try and slide down the way she had. Without loosing control. Without someone to catch me.

I started butt sliding. I slid faster and lost control as well. I was going to go over. That would be the end of me. I somehow jammed my right foot into a crack and stopped my slide.

My left foot was over the edge.

Roadkill finally got to breathe again when I got down. This is what the drop looked like from the bottom.

I'm lucky to be alive

Roadkill should have been dead. I should have been dead. Neither of us would have been found for weeks. We would have been just another two names on the list of people who perished in the White Mountains

We finally got to the AT as darkness fell. I was exhausted. I was angry, tired, hungry. I was spent.

I sat down just past the Osgood bridge and cried.

I should be dead. Roadkill should be dead. We wouldn’t have been found for weeks probably. No one used this trail. We found out later at the AMC visitor center that this trail wasn’t meant for descents – it clearly said to ascend it only. Not to take heavy packs on it. Not to do it when wet, or in bad weather conditions, with wind or rain. Pretty much not to do it ever.

And we were sent down it by an AMC employee.

I’m lucky to be alive, and I was lucky to have saved the girl I was in love with life. We both should have been dead.

We made it to Gorham the next day. I spent most of the day either in the hotel room trying to stop shaking, or eating at the Chinese buffet.

It was as close to death as I’ve ever come. I have no desire to repeat it.

Journey to the Northern Limits

One thing I have a lot of from this trip is video. Moments that I was able to save. They tell only snippets of what happened, but sometimes when you string them together, they tell more of a story then you ever thought.

So this is an attempt at a story. Just like these writings are trying to tell a story. I hope you enjoy it