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Something I’ve Left Out For a Reason – My (stoogy) Siblings

As some of you probably noticed, I failed to mention anything about the going away party at Jay’s in any of my earlier posts. No, I was not being forgetful. I just wanted to give that party, and the reason behind it, it’s proper place.

When I decided to do the Trail, aside from my parents, the only people that I initially told were my siblings, Matt, Paul, and D. My plan was going to be to tell a few people, and then kind of slip away into the foggy mountain dew. I didn’t want to make a big deal about leaving, or attempting the trip – not sure why. But anyway, that was what I thought was going to happen. Much to my surprise, my siblings threw an awesome going away party for me at Jay’s. Not only did they gather friends and family from around town, they got a bunch of UD guys to make the trip (thanks a ton for coming guys, that was awesome). I walked right into their sneaky trap – I had no idea what was going on!

So what I really want to say here is that having people like them around you for your whole life is really something invaluable. It’s really amazing to see the things good brothers and sisters will do for each other. Although they foiled my plan of a sneaky exit into the mountain fog :), I greatly appreciate them getting everyone together for my sending off. It’s difficult to articulate or write what it means to me, but know that it’s truly something special. To have people gather to send me off with a few beers, although a relatively small act, is truly something powerful. And it has stuck with me through this journey, and will continue to be one of my fondest memories no matter where I go from here.

Terrible Tang out here said something to me the other day that really resonated with me. We were talking about brothers and sisters and how growing up there was always a battle about something or other (he has 2 older sisters, and and older brother). He’s now about 35 or so, and like me, his siblings have become his best friends. He said something along the lines of “It takes time to realize what we truly have in siblings. You don’t just have brothers or sisters, you have people that you have literally shared your whole life with, from the very beginning, to the very end.” That is really something that is difficult to comprehend, but it’s something very special as well. So thanks for everything you’ve done, and everything you will do – I appreciate it with all my heart.

Trail Update #19 – Southern Maine

So after getting out of the Whites, I honestly thought I was in the clear as far as tough stuff. Once again, like many things in my life, I was wrong. The first half of Maine was just about as tough, if not tougher, than the Whites. For some reason, they just don’t get as much coverage as the Whites – maybe because they don’t have names of presidents. That always adds some clout to things. A couple of years ago I actually legally changed my named to George Theodore Lincoln Washington to try to help with my physical and mental inadequacies. Everyone saw right through the ploy though, so I changed my name back.

One of the tougher areas of Maine were the Mahoosucs – the range you run into right after leaving the Whites. The two highlights of that range are the Mahoosuc Notch and the Arm. The Notch is this crazy rock jumble that lasts about a mile. I heard horror stories of this one mile taking people up to three hours. You are literally rock climbing, scrambling, and crawling for a mile straight. I did it in about 1:20 – not too shabby. I ran into an older gentleman in the Notch. I have no idea how he was doing it. He said he already fell twice and he had a pretty good gash on his leg. But he powered through, I give him a lot of credit for making it through. I just saw a picture today of an artist’s interpretation of the Notch. I forgot to take a picture of it, so I recreated it below. I thought it was pretty funny:

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Right after leaving the Notch, you hit straight up the Arm for about a mile and a half, or somewhere around there. It’s a steep rock face that is exhausting. The combination of Notch and Arm is brutal. Needless to say, that was a late day even though I think I only did a sub-15 mile day. But I came away without any falls and no bloody messes. I consider it a success. Because I did see a skeleton stuck in one of the crevasses of the Notch – so I was just glad I wasn’t that guy.

After getting out of that mess, I met Paul. Now I don’t want to steal any of Paul’s thunder by going through our whole trip. There were some really funny parts that I want him to tell. But I’ll give a little teaser. Below is our attempt at taking our first picture of the hike. We literally started hiking across the road to the left, saw this cool AT thingy, and tried to do a timed photo of ourselves next to it. As you can tell, we didn’t do too well. I am nowhere close to being ready for the photo, and Paul hasn’t even make it into the frame yet! He’s off to the left somewhere.

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But Paul did about 2.5 days of hiking and did an awesome job. Solitaire returned to all his hiking glory! We did some really tough stuff and he stuck it out. We also got some really neat views too. Below is a picture of Solitaire. We have some other good pics, but we can post them in Paul’s account of the trip. Be sure to read that one – a rinky dink town, a crazy old man named Bear, and a moldy old camper all played prominent roles in the trip. So you know it will be a good one.

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Paul’s few days he also brought some awesome weather. Unfortunately, when he left, he took the good weather with him. Over the next four or so days, it was wet, rainy, and cold. And in those conditions, going above treeline is quite terrifying. There were a few mountains I had to do so, with miserable results. In those conditions, you feel like you have entered hell. Your brain gets turned off, your body is freezing cold and wet, and you are on the verge of survival mode. Below is a picture I took on the first of three or so peaks that I went over in quick succession above treeline. This is the only picture I have up on those peaks because after this one my hands stopped working well enough to operate my camera. And my camera also started to get soaking wet, so I tucked it away in my bag. You’ll notice that white stuff on the side of that pole – that’s ice frozen sideways. The moisture in the air was freezing when it contacted stuff I guess. It was pretty intense. And I’m also holding back the hood of my rain jacket because the winds were brutal. My hood kept hitting me in the face, so I had to hold it down, resulting in my sweet pose.

Luckily, these few peaks were the last that I would go above treeline in bad weather. I wish I had the dexterity to take some pictures on one of the peaks, Saddleback, because that was even worse than the picture below. I found myself running across the top of the mountain in order to get down as soon as I could. I ran into two friends, Lady and Cannon after getting down from Saddleback. And Lady was bawling her eyes out. All she kept saying was, “No woman should be hiking in these conditions!” It was brutal, but it was also kind of funny. Like a lot of things  on the trail, it was both good and bad, rolled up into one.

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So after surviving the cold and wet, I got back down to a reasonable altitude where I wouldn’t die if I tried to sleep. So that was good. But what I did next wasn’t so good. I attempted to capture a bull moose using only my stupidity and a 50 foot length of paracord – I failed.

Take a look at the below diagram. The series of events leading to my attempted capture are slightly complicated. But I shall explain here. My operation was a nocturnal one. I slept on what the guide book refers to as a ‘woods road.’ Sometimes these are automobile paths, or just thin game paths, or something along those lines. This one happened to look like a wide automobile path that hadn’t been used in a long time. I tried looking for a good spot to pitch my tent off the road, but unfortunately I could not find one and it was getting late. So I pitched on the road itself with the fear of being run over by a drunk Maine man riding an ATV or a truck down the road in the middle of the night. This fear slowly grew, and along with it some ideas to combat those ravaging Mainiacs and their destructive vehicles! So in order to signal any would-be drivers down the road, I strung up my paracord line across the road and hung some slightly reflective items on it – my tent case, my pole case, my white bandana, and my socks (these weren’t reflective, but their smell may be able to reach the driver to warn them that a hiker was ahead).

Brilliant! I crawled into my tent after dinner happy to have my signal cord up and confident that I would not wake up dead. As I settled into my bag, another fear crawled into my head however.

“That road sure didn’t look like any vehicles had been over it in a long time, but it did look like there was a game path down the middle of the wider vehicle path… and I just hung up a rope right about head high on a moose. But whatever, I’ll just take down the moose with my bare hands if he becomes a problem. Sleep now Warrior of the Woodlands.”

I wake up a few hours later in the pitch black to the grunting walk of what sounds like a gorilla walking down the woods road to my tent. The noise this creature was making a dull, low, exhalation that occurred with every earth-moving step he took. Mother of God, there’s a moose right outside my tent. The Warrior of the Woodlands was scared as hell. I tried to stay as quiet as I could so I could track the moose’s movement by sound, but the only thing I could hear was my breathing and my heart. Next thing I know, I hear a tree break, some more moose sounds, and then nothing. Well something weird just happened, but I have no idea what. I don’t hear the moose anymore, so I go back to sleep. A couple hours later, I hear the gorilla breathing again, followed quickly by my heart in my throat. I’m glad to say I survived the night.

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Waking up, I turned to my left to notice my paracord line and my signaling items were gone – completely gone. I went over to the tree I had tied it to and found it wrapped around the trunk. And then I saw the end of the paracord, broken and frayed (this paracord is about 500lb test or so).

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And it began to dawn on me what happened – the moose walked right through my line. I found three of the four items I had hanging on the line. And walking across the woods road, I searched for the other half of the paracord. Couldn’t even find the tree I tied it to, it was gone – literally gone along with my pole case and the other half of paracord.

I found them 80 yards down the woods road. So here’s what I think happened. Monster moose runs into cord, snapping cord in half. Half of the cord got caught in his rack. He keeps walking like Frankenstein, breaking the tree in half and dragging it 80 yards down the road where it eventually fell off his antlers. This all happened about ten feet away from me – horrifying.

So I packed up my stuff and got out of there as soon as possible. I didn’t want this thing to find me and eat me. I hiked about a mile from camp, and I hear some movement to my left. And I see this beast staring at me:

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Now who knows if this was the man I tried to capture. It may not be, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was him. I inaudibly apologized to him for the attempted capture as I clicked a quick photo and then ran away. What animals though! They are huge and pretty scary. But man, what cool creatures! So now I can tell people I almost caught a moose with some string and my bare hands. I think I came pretty close – but I think I also came pretty close to getting trampled and eaten as well.

With my moose hunting adventures behind me, I made it into Stratton to complete the final planning of the last leg of the journey. After calling home, I settled on a date to summit – October 6th. I tried to postpone the planning of the end for quite a while. It was a little depressing to know the end was now set. Luckily I ran into Munchies in town (formerly known as Dry Key). He was the first guy I ever met on the AT. I met him atop Springer Mountain in Georgia, way back on May 7th. It was good to see him again. So the sadness of the impending end was pushed aside for the time. I hiked out the next day, heading for my last town on the trip, Monson.

P.S.: Here are some random pictures from this stretch. The leaves really started to change during this week, as you’ll see from the second photo. Of course, the picture never captures the reality. The oranges and yellows were much more vibrant than what you see there. And the lakes in Maine! They’re beautiful. I swam in a few just to say I did even though they were pretty cold. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity!

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