Going off road for us usually means an engine burns gasoline and turns tires, propelling us through the world. But truly one of the most rewarding ways to go off-road is under your own power, whether it be paddling a canoe, riding a mountain bike or hiking on your own two feet.
Going by the trail name Colorado, a friend of our esteemed publisher is tackling the length of the Appalachian trail, from north to south. The trail begins in Maine and terminates in the Great Smoky Mountains of Georgia, a distance of about 2,200 miles. It usually takes hikers five to seven months to complete the journey.
ALSO SEE: Colorado’s First Update from the Trail
So follow along with our friend Colorado, as he takes on the trail.
Howdy All, from New Hampshire.
First things first: I omitted in my last update an interesting bit of trivia regarding Rangeley, Maine. Rangeley sits exactly half way between the equator and the North Pole – 3,107 miles to each. How about that?
Today is a rest day in Gorham, New Hampshire. I now have 300 miles behind me. It’s a good day to be off the trail as it rained all night and has continued for most of today.
Two days ago I finished up the 282 miles that Maine had to dish out, and the trail there was challenging to the bitter end. It took me exactly four weeks to reach the New Hampshire border, averaging a little over 10 miles per day, including rest days.
You may notice what appears to be some gray in my scraggly beard. I prefer to think of it as sun-bleached blond. Which begs the question – to shave or not to shave? Tradition holds that male thru- hikers (and those females with a zest for life) not shave over the duration of the trip. I’m wrestling with that. While I don’t fear the beard, it becomes a nuisance in early morning hiking when you walk through the many spider webs spun across the trail during the night. (It is for this reason that the first person down the trail in the morning is deemed the Webface, as they clear the path for those who follow). Anyway, we’ll see about the beard.
I’m starting to pass increasing numbers of NOBOs on the trail, and the hostel owners say they can feel the northbound “bubble” coming. Most of these people started in Georgia in February or March, and they are all eyeballing the end of their journey in a few weeks on Mt. Katahdin, where I started. Again, most appear to be in their early twenties, although I am starting to pass a few older hikers. I’m also passing more and more day hikers, weekend hikers, and section hikers (those doing just a piece of the AT). Most like to stop and chat about the difficulties that still lie ahead in New Hampshire for the SOBOs. That’s fine, because they all have challenges of their own awaiting them in Maine!
Hitchhiking 101: To resupply, it’s usually necessary to hitchhike into the nearest town from where the trail crosses a road. I’ve found this to be very easy, as the locals are used to the AT hikers and usually stop to pick them up if they have room. If I’ve been sweating on the trail all day, I’ll put on a clean shirt before catching a ride. Just seems like the civilized thing to do.
The iconic White Blaze: Most of the AT is marked by white blazes, typically 2×6” rectangles painted usually on trees, but often on rocks, depending on the terrain. Some sections of the trail are marked better than others, and ironically, the more complex the trail, often the fewer blazes around to assure yourself that you are in fact on route. The blazes become a big comfort factor in difficult terrain, where the trail is often less a distinct path and more just a vague idea.
The Mahoosuc Notch: The most entertaining part of the trail in Maine for me was the Mahoosuc Notch, noted in my guidebook as “the most difficult or fun mile of the AT.” The Notch is a lateral traverse at the base of two very steep mountain walls, made up of a chaotic jumble of car-sized boulders that you have to make your way through, over, around, and sometimes under. A couple of times I had to remove my pack and push it through a slot or hole, then I would squeeze myself through. Took me about 1-1/2 hours to negotiate this stretch, and I loved it. It was one gigantic rock puzzle, unlike anything else on the trail. Unfortunately I took all my pictures with my camera and not my iPhone. But I’m sure if you google Mahoosuc Notch, you’ll see some good photos.
Trail Attrition: Personal Pan, one of the people I’ve been loosely traveling along with, has decided to leave the trail. After Maine, he said he just wasn’t having fun anymore. Another, Lil’ Grizz, is off the trail for 6 weeks after breaking a bone in his foot. Iceman has left the trail with severe tendonitis. And many of the NOBOs who have just finished New Hampshire’s White Mountains (which I will be starting tomorrow) are sporting knee braces. Vitamin I (Ibuprophin) is in high demand. So far, I’m feeling good. Except I know I’ve dropped a lot of weight, which happens to almost everyone on the trail.
And now “The Whites” beckon: Tomorrow it’s on to NH’s Whites, which includes Mt. Washington, the state’s highest peak, and which for years held the record for the highest recorded wind speed in the world (231 mph). It’s about a 100-mile stretch which I hope to complete in about 10 days. The question remains whether I’ll be one of those sporting a knee brace at the end.
Thanks to all of you who remain interested in this adventure. I apologize for some address problems I’ve been struggling with on my iPhone.
Never quit on a bad day. -Useful Trail Advice