Growing up in a beach town, the forth of July always was special. When I was younger, there were those friends who came for the summer; we hung out from June till September and then said goodbye for the school year. When we got a little older, summers were the time to make money for tuition and books or for internships. No more June until September friendships. But there was always still the forth of July. 

That was the holiday I could always count on seeing my sumer friends. No matter what else was going on over the summer months, July forth sacred. Everyone just HAD to come back to the beach.

What the 4th of July is to summer towns, Trail Days is to the hiker population. In the small town of Damascus, VA, present and past AT hikers gather to see old friends, participate in the hiker parade, and dance around the bonfire/ drum circle.

My 4th weekend in Virginia, I jumped in the jeep and drove the 2 hours south from Roanoke to Damascus for Trail Days, May 16-18. 

I arrived in Damascus later than I had anticipated (why does work always get busy on the Friday before a weekend you have plans?) which meant I was setting up my tent in the dark. (As I often had on the trail!) Then I headed over to the bonfire to see if I could locate some hiker-trash friends. 

Here's a life fact: in the dark, every scruffy, bearded guy looks exactly the same. There was no way I was going to recognize anybody in the dark. Yet I was still a little wired from the drive down. So I headed over to the Blue Blaze for a beer. 

Nobody I knew was to be found at the Blue Blaze, either. But it was Trail Days! So I quickly found some new friends!

I was talking to some guy at the bar (Southbounder 2011) when a very, very drunk woman stumbled up to the bar and asked us where we had met (we apparently looked "very cute together").
 "We met here." I said.
 "Oh! and you are coming back to the place you met on Trail Days! How sweet."
 "Um, no." I said. "We just met."
"Did you do the whole trail together?" she said.
"I hiked south in 2011," the guy said. "She hiked northbound in 2013."
"And you've kept in touch since your hike?" she said.
"Yes we have!" I said.

Then another hiker (Jukebox) whipped out his phone and took our picture together. "You really do make a good couple." he said.

I turned to Mr. Southbounder 2011: "I'm Pink Lady." I said. "What's your name?" 

(It was Lieutenant Dan. One of 4 Lieutenant Dans I met at Trail Days.)

I had packed for Trail Days the weekend before. When it was 85 degrees. So I had my summer weight sleeping bag and lightweight clothes. A fleece instead of a jacket. Cotton socks instead of merino wool. When the temperature dropped to 34 degrees that night, I was quite unhappy with my packing skills. I woke up feeling like the top of my head was going to fall right off! I pulled every article of clothing I had brought out of the clothes bag and put every single one on. I was especially happy to see that I had packed a fleece hat in the bag that I had forgotten about. Better, But still an uncomfortable night.

Saturday morning, I arose, shivering, and did what always warms the body up after a cold night: I got moving. I joined a bunch of other hikers at an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast. (My super power hiker eating skills have abandoned me. Fine, since I'm not burning nearly as many calories as last year) Yet, I still hadn't seen anyone I knew. 

I went to a talk at 10 by Cindy Ross, about the next steps in the "Walking off the War" projects. Great speaker, great program. And finally! Some familiar faces -- Fancy Feet and Lt. Dan from the night before! 

Then came the hiker parade. Last year, the hiker parade ended in disaster. I was excited to experience a parade with a happy ending. It did not disappoint. 
I dodged the water-bombs with Mother Teresa
Took pictures with Carbon
Waved like royalty with Fancy Feet
Tried to mellow-out Mellow Johnny
And was blown away at how different Pretzel looked without a beard. 
Last year, Rainbow Bright got run over by a car in the disastrous hiker parade. This year,she wore a helmet and a "crash test dummy" sign!
This year, we all made it safely to the park in one piece!

Later in the afternoon, I headed over to the "Hiker Yearbook" photo shoot, where I saw more friends.

Patchouli 

And Mama Goose.

Such a great time, and so good to see friends from the trail. Sunday, many of those friends hit the trail for a few days (or more) of hiking and camping. But I had to head back to work Monday. So I said my goodbyes, jumped in my jeep, and gave a few current hikers bac
 
 
On April 26, a mere 5 days after the running of the Boston Marathon, another marathon was taking place. In Roanoke!

The Blue Ridge Marathon, though not as well known as the Boston Marathon, has distinction all its own: it's known as the hardest marathon in the United States. In 26.2 miles it climbs not one, not two, but three peaks with an overall elevation gain/loss of 7000 feet. Crazy! The first, and tallest peak, Roanoke Mountain, is one I haven't climbed as of yet. I hear there are some good hikes there, though. The second, and second tallest, is Mill Mountain, of the famous Roanoke Star. The third is Peakwood Drive, and inserts a 1607 foot climb and descent between miles 17 and 20. 

I met a couple people at the gym who were doing the loop TWICE as an ultra-marathon!
(Later, they told me they completed the first loop and decided that once was enough. I can't blame them. But there were some hearty souls who did complete the ultra.)

Even though I was doing such nonsense last year with a pack on my back, this year I was in enough shape to go downtown and cheer the runners in. No more.

Later in the evening, even though I hadn't actually RUN, I saw no reason why I couldn't enjoy the post marathon festivities. I'd just have to pay an admission fee, since I didn't have a bib number. So on Saturday night, I was experiencing that summery evening concert under the stars that I had been dreaming of last weekend.
Ok, so it wasn't exactly a concert under the STARS, since it started at 6:00 pm ( a family friendly event) but it was summery and fun. And speaking of families, check out these three sisters who were there jamming away to G-Love and Special Sauce with their mom.
Oh I wish I had been that cool when I was their age. Who am I kidding? I'm not that cool NOW!

But at least I get to buy beer to enjoy with my live music!
(I spilled a little)

After the concert wrapped up at the ripe old time of 8:00 pm, I wandered around downtown Roanoke, enjoying the other bands that lined the streets and performed in the bars. I also enjoyed a little barbecue with my blues. I am, after all, in the South!

Sunday, April 27, I checked out a bike path along the Roanoke RIver. It was a nice biking path, but since it was Sunday early afternoon, quite crowded. Wearing the clip-in shoes was probably not the smartest thing I've ever done. On the bright side, I got a lot of practice clipping in and clipping out of pedals I haven't used in a year and a half. (No small children were injured as a result of my bike ride!)
 
 
When you are only staying somewhere for a short time (like 3 months), you don't have time to leisurely unpack and settle in and get to know your surroundings. You have to hit the ground running!

That's exactly what I have been doing for the past two weekends.

Last weekend, I hopped on the bike, traveled down that convenient bike path, and got to know the downtown area. Roanoke has one of the oldest continuously running open air markets in the country. Or so the tourist literature says. I'm not so much interested in myth busting that particular piece of information, but rather in GOING to the open air market. Which I did.

The market was pretty easy to find, what with signs like this:
Kind of kitchy, but fun. The rest of the downtown area had other such old-fashion-y signs, too. Including a giant coffee urn on a roof top that features a neon tube sign of coffee emptying into a cup! I'll get a picture of that on here, too, once I figure out how to take a picture without risking my life doing so (it's on a major roadway). 

Once I parked my bike (lots of secure bike racks around -- SCORE!) I got some nice fresh fruit and veggies for the week. Then I decided to mosey around and explore a bit.

The downtown area is pretty small. It didn't take long to explore. There are cute little shops, restaurants, and a bunch of blues clubs/ comedy clubs a couple streets over from the market. (Dustin Diamond -- Screech from Saved by the Bell -- was performing in one of the clubs that night. Understandably, I decided to forego seeing Screech in lieu of a good night's sleep.)

But I was completely enamored by this:
I think from now on, I will take to calling dresses "frocks". It has sort of an old world charm doesn't it? Or maybe it would simply make me sound like a raving lunatic. Whichever. 

Across the street from La De Da, the frock shoppe, I encountered a pathway with little fountains all along its length. 
Or maybe they are planters. Not really sure. The important thing here, is that they lead me to this:
An outdoor amphitheater! Oh, there is just about nothing better on a warm summer night than listening to music under the stars! And since the warm weather here is about 3 to 4 weeks ahead of New England (excepting last week's freezing cold bike ride, of course) I'm thinking music should be starting soon.

Sunday I decided to leave the downtown area and take advantage of Roanoke's greatest feature.
 
It's proximity to the Trail! Oh how I've missed that trail. Life really is a lot simpler when all you need to do to know you are heading in the right direction is look for a white blaze. (There should be metaphorical white blazes everywhere) 

I wanted to go back to one of my favorite places along the entire AT. 
I have to say: going to McAfee Knob as a day hike is a completely different experience than as part of a thru-hike. 

It kind of felt like cheating.

First off, I wasn't carrying a pack. Just a little day pack with some food and water. Secondly, I just parked at the trail head and walked 4 miles to the outlook. No scrambling up Dragon's Tooth with a full pack, no sprawling outside a gas station and eating my body weight in gas station food, no picking at the skin on my feet, no hiker funk, no feeling of "where the heck is this stupid outlook?". Just an hour and 15 minutes and BAM! There it was. 

It's still just as breathtaking, though. And,yes, I did have to take THE picture. Even though I really didn't feel like I had earned it.

Then I scuttled on over to Tinker's Cliff to round things out.

Since my memory of McAfee's Knob had me dedicating and entire day to the hike, I had plenty of time left over when I got back to the jeep. So I decided to check out another of Roanoke's attractions, the Roanoke Star.

The star is essentially a gigantic neon star that sits up on Mill Mountain and is visible from the downtown area. During the day, when it's not lit, it is not nearly as impressive. But it is big. Very very big. 

An observation deck sits in front of the star, and has a great view of Roanoke from above.
And that really, really pointy peak right in the middle? Mc Afee Knob! Two views of one of my favorite places in the world! 

Not a bad way to spend the first weekend here.
 
 
A little more than a year after the start of my epic AT hike, I decided to take on an adventure of a different sort: tackling the challenge of travel therapy once again and doing some trail magic to support this year's batch of hiker trash! So now I'm here in Roanoke, Virginia.

Lucky for me, almost halfway between Plymouth, MA and Roanoke, VA is the town of Chatham, NJ -- home to my college roommate, Isa. Perfect for an overnight stop! As we so often do, Isa and I decided to go out for food and drinks that Saturday. Delicious Heights, a fantabulous restaurant near her place, really lives up to its name. I was taken to whole new heights of deliciousness. (I spent a bit of time searching the internet for mango slaw recipes, thanks to ol' Delicious Heights. I have yet to make it, but I'm looking forward to it) And then Isa introduced me to her new favorite after dinner drink: sambuca with coffee beans. Somehow, the coffee beans, which you crunch up with your teeth whilst sipping the sabuca, end up tasting like little candy pieces. It's super good. But super strong! After dinner, I went to an entirely other height of deliciousness.

In the morning, we went to the Broadway Diner, home of "the world's best pancakes", or so the sign says. I've seen that sign before! Except that in this instance, I believe the sign is actually true. Broadway Diner has if not THE best pancakes in the world, then at least in the top 10. They are light and fluffy and golden and tasty. I generally go with the blueberry pancakes, but on this particular Sunday morning, the smell of cinnamon buns so overwhelmed my olfactory sensibilities, that I went with cinnamon pancakes. YUMMY!


Sunday's drive was a bit longer than Saturday's, possibly because I was still reeling from the effects of sambuca with coffee beans -- something that even a stack of the world's best pancakes couldn't completely eradicate. However, my drive west on 78 and south on 81 pretty much paralleled the trail, which made the drive like a trip down memory lane.

As I drove along passing signs for Pine Grove Furnace State Park, Hamburg (with that gigantic but essentially useless Cabella's), Maryland State Line, Front Royal, Luray, Shenandoah State Park, Waynesboro, Troutsville, memories came flooding back. Its funny how precisely I can remember certain sections of trail, down to what foods I was craving! Also of note: those cheap-o car phone chargers they sell in Ocean State Job Lot? Totally do not work. Take note of it.

I ended up getting into Roanoke around 6:30 pm on Sunday. Because of a missed turn, I ended up finding my place of employment for the next three months before I found my house. Nice facility and only 2 miles away from the house. Once I got turned around, it was pretty easy finding the house.

In the past I had always gone with the corporate housing option, but now with the advent of Craig's List, its much easier to find short term rental options, which is a better option financially. In any case, I'm renting a furnished room in a house in a nice residential neighborhood. Me and 5 other roomies. All guys. So, much like the AT hike, I am --as Violet Beauregard so eloquently put it:-- "a badass in a sea of testosterone."


The bedroom is very nice -- airy with nice light, lots of storage, a desk, a TV, and a plethora of decorative bed pillows. 
The kitchen and living room (or, as I call it, that room that I walk through between the kitchen and the staircase) are spotless. I live in a sea of clean-freak testosterone.
Since I live only 2 miles from work, I can ride my bike there and back each day to give Cherry Valence (the Jeep) a much needed rest. It's been good, except for Wednesday morning, when the temperature dropped. It kind of felt like my face was going to fall off during that ride!

I also discovered a nice bike path that runs from a couple blocks away from the house to the downtown area. 
So things are going well, I'm settling in, and ready to do some exploring of the Roanoke area!
 
 
Starting Date: April 2
Ending Dare: September 14
Number of Days on the Trail: 166
Total Miles: 2015
Average Daily Miles 12.14
Number of Over 20 Days: 21
Number of Zero Days: 19
Pounds Lost: about 27
Number of Times I Wished I Wasn't Hiking: 2
Number of Shoes I Went Through: 4
Average Pack Weight: 25 #
Favorite State: Vermont
Least Favorite: New York
Number of Snow Days: 2
Number of Above 100 Days: 4
Number of Times I Cried on the Trail: about 20
Number of Times I Laughed on the Trail: at least once a day
Amount of Time it Took for Feeling to Return to My Feet After Finishing: 2 1/2 weeks
Amount of Time it Took to Wish I Were Hiking Again: about 2 1/2 weeks
Final Thought: Best thing I've ever done! 


 
 
Average Daily Miles: 13.1
Total Miles in Sept 184
Number of Over 20 Mile Days: 1
Number of Zero Days: 1
Number of Days I wanted to Just Quit: 1
Gear Destroyed by Maine: Just about all of it
Number of Times Maine Tried to Kill Me: too many to count
Number of Days I Killed It in Maine: all to them
How Happy I am that I Did this Thru-HIke: too much to express!
 
 
September 14: We awake and pack up early, leaving the hotel at 5:30 to head up to Baxter State Park. We do not have a park pass, so my Dad will drop us off at the entrance and we will hitch to the trailhead. Walking past the entrance gate, we are questioned by the ranger "Where are you headed today?" He says he will ask passing motorists if they would be willing to give us a ride as they check in. About 15 minutes later, a prius pulls over and Sarah gives us a ride. Sarah is from New Hampshire, an avid hiker, going to attempt knife edge today. We thank her as we pull into the already near full parking lot at The Birches Campsite. 

First order of business: go to the ranger station to check in. He gives us a number: Subaru and I are thru-hikers 406 and 407 this year. Looks like the weather could go either way today. There is a bit of cloud cover at the summit now; that could burn off in the late morning or stick around and generate precipitation. I guess we'll see. 

We hit Katahdin Stream Trail a little after 7 am. The first mile or so is fairly easy; mild climb, mild rocks, mild roots. We cross a bridge, see that last privy on the trail (and I don't have to use it. *sigh*), and then the trail turns to follow alongside Katahdin Stream. We pass some pretty waterfalls, stop to take some pictures. We are leap frogging with a couple groups of day hikers, falling ahead or behind whenever we stop to take photos or have a snack.
KATAHDIN SUMMIT AS SEEN FROM THE BIRCHES CAMPSITE
After the falls, the trail gets decidedly steeper and rockier. In many spots, there are side trails through the trees to avoid a particularly steep or hard climb. I'm not ashamed to say I took advantage of the trails. The trail itself has now merged with Katahdin Stream; we are essentially walking in a stream bed, rock hopping and grabbing onto trees for balance. (I'm still of the mindset to keep my feet dry for as long as possible. Lt. Dan says so!) 

Once we emerge above treeline, we see near vertical rock faces with meandering white blazes. This is not going to be an easy climb! We scramble up rock faces, hand over hand with our poles tucked in the packs. Sometimes it takes a few minutes of searching to see exactly what the intended route is; sometimes it looks near impossible until you look a little further to the right and --behold!-- a white blaze next to a crevasse that looks do-able. 

We come to a section with a rebar handle built into the rock. The rebar is so far above my head, I need to step up onto a rock in a crack in the rock face in order to stand of tip-toes to barely grasp the rebar with my arms overhead. I have no idea how I'm going to get up. I back off, let Subaru go first. He grasps the  rebar, doe a semi-chin up, and puts his foot up to shoulder level to place it on another small nub or rebar. From here, he is able to muscle up to the next level of rock face. Now it's my turn. It climb back up on the rock in the crack, stretch to grab the rebar, and place my other foot on the rock wall. By pushing backward, I'm able to lift my left foot off the rock, wedge it back into the crack a few feet higher, and then lift my right foot up to head level where I place it on the rebar nub. Now, between my hands on the rebar, my right foot on the rebar, and my left foot, which I have inched up the crack another foot or so, I can heave myself up, like performing a kip maneuver on the bars in gymnastics. I scramble up onto the rocks hands and knees, wondering how the heck I'm going to get back down.

The trail continues in this way, rock scrambles, crawling on my belly, grabbing onto rebar, searching for white blazes. The cloud cover continues, the temperature is in the low 60s. It's good weather for hiking. Not hot, but not wet, either. 

After continuing in this fashion for 2 miles or so, we come to The Gateway: the terrain levels off and we once again are rock hopping through a stream bed. The clouds have gotten thicker here and we find ourselves in a dense fog, bordering on a light rain. We take out our rain jackets and continue on. 

The last mile was not steep. It was not difficult. It was not treacherous. But it was long. We kept thinking "Oh, right over this ridge!" only to see another ridge ahead. Isn't that always the way? But gradually, eventually, finally, we saw that iconic sign marking the summit of Katahdin; the end of the Appalachian Trail.  
I don't know what I expected to feel at the end of the journey: elation? A sense of pride? Enlightenment? All I felt was tired. I'd never been so tired in my life. And hungry. I wanted to eat. So after the pictures at the sign, we did what we do best: we opened our packs and had ourselves a nice lunch in the fog. 

Of course, we still had to get down. 

I'm happy to report that unlike every other mountain on the trail, the descent from Katahdin was actually easier than the climb. It took just as long, but it wasn't as taxing. That rebar section? Way easier going down. Those sections where I cut through the trees on the way up? Could totally scramble down. I was using my arms just as much -- no, more -- than my legs. But it felt good. I felt strong. On the way down, I felt like I had accomplished something.

When we once again reached The Birches Campground, we were pleased to see that Funkytown had arrived! They were having a big cookout and invited us to come over and get some sausages and beer. They were going to summit tomorrow and guess who else? Roadrunner! He ended up at the campground one day after us. So we took a little time to hang out and eat and trade trail stories. 
And guess who finished hiking shortly after we did? Sarah! She gave us a ride back to the gate, where my Dad was waiting in the car.

Back in Millenocket, we went to the cafe to sign the ceiling tile, grabbed some food to go, and hit the road for Massachusetts. 

Mission accomplished!
 
 
September 13: Our unplanned, but totally needed zero day. We slept in until 7am and took the oh-so-nice morning shower. Then we went downstairs to eat breakfast. At breakfast, we saw Professor, Peaches, Mother Teresa. We saw Whistler and Strawberry Donut, who we hadn't seen since Pennsylvania. They summited on Sept 12 and were looking forward to buying new clothes before their flight back to Germany. The bunch of us were talking with some other hotel guests who had never heard of thru-hiking. We were like a bunch of celebrities. 

After breakfast, we walked over to Baxter State Park Headquarters to see about getting parking permits for tomorrow, but found that they were all gone. Between the weekend and the festival this weekend (End of Trail Days) the park had reached its limit. We would have to get dropped off at the entrance and hitch to the trail head. 

Then we took some time to clean our gear, throw away things we didn't need any more (it seemed so wrong to throw away zip lock bags that we could rinse out and use for a couple more weeks!) and get slack packs ready for tomorrow. And check to see if our tents were dry.

We went over to the Appalachian Cafe for lunch, where we bumped into Barbarosa, Dip-n-Sip, and Newton. There was a ceiling tile that you could sign if you had complete your thru-hike. We figured we'd sign it now when we had time so we could head home sooner tomorrow. No dice. They would not let us sign until we had touched that Katahdin sign. The cafe also had a sundae for sale: Summit Sundae -- 14 scoops of ice cream (one scoop for every state in the AT), hot fudge, whipped cream, sprinkles, a banana, M&Ms, a snickers bar, and a donut. I didn't even think about attempting it.

Back at the hotel, we made use of the hot tub and stretched our sore muscles out before going back upstairs for a nap. Dinner was at a closer restaurant and to bed early for an early start tomorrow.
 
 
September 12: Wake up to rain. Since we have a shorter day today, we decide to sleep in one more hour in hopes that the rain will stop. (Always funny to talk from different tents, yelling back and forth) We were lucky this morning; it did stop raining.

We got up, packed up our wet tents, ate, and hit the trail. Though it had stopped raining, there was still water dripping from the trees, so I had a chance to try out my home made pack cover. Worked very well, but was very hot against my back! We got water at the spring next to the lake, enjoying the beautiful early morning sunshine on the water.

The last 10 miles of the 100 mile wilderness did not let up. We really had to work for every mile. It wasn't steep, there were no big climbs. But the roots! Man did we have roots to negotiate. So many times during the day, I thought "Really? This is the best we can do for trail maintenance?" 

A few weeks back, we had been hiking with Kokopelli, a hiker who attempted a thru-hike in 2012, but got injured 50 miles before Katahdin. I can totally see how that would happen. It's like somebody in charge of trail maintenance is TRYING to injure people!

See what I mean?

Of course, there was mud, as well.
MId morning, I felt something hit me in the ear. Hard. I turned around, trying to figure out what had just happened, when I was hit in the head again. By a pinecone. That had been thrown by a red tailed squirrel up in a tree. A squirrel just threw a pinecone at me! 

Subaru came walking up and said "Did a squirrel just throw a pine cone at you?"

Yes. Yes he did. And now he's scuttling down the tree trunk, chattering at me in an angry fashion.

"Okay!" I yelled. "I'm going! I'm going!" And then I impaled him with my trekking pole and killed him.

Just kidding. I turned around and walked away.

It's not enough that Maine has tried to kill me with its rocks and its roots and its crevices and its steep inclines and even steeper descents, its streams to ford and to rock hop over on slippery, slippery rocks, with its ledges and loose gravel. No, now Maine is sending squirrels after me. Thank God I'm getting out of the wilderness today!

We stopped for a break at the shelter, a mere 7 miles from our campsite. It had taken us twice as long to get here as we expected it to. And right before the shelter, we had this stream to cross:


Eventually, we reached the warning sign on the north boundary of the 100 mile wilderness. We were out! A little bit more to the road, and then .5 miles to Abol Bridge. Abol Bridge has a gorgeous view of Katahdin, but unfortunately, we were enveloped in threatening looking clouds; no view for us.

Luckily for us, we reached the store moments before the clouds opened up and the downpour started. My dad had reached the store about 10 minutes before we did. So at least our timing was good. We got in the car and headed toward Millenocket for a shower and some food.

Originally, we had planned on summiting on September 13. But we were both completely exhausted. I felt like I was all ribs and clavicle; Subaru looked like a scarecrow. We decided to take a zero day and rest up for the summit.
 
 
September 11: Today was the day Maine did me in. Today was the day I just wanted to end this stupidity and  go home. Today was the day I'd had it.

Maybe it was because yesterday had been so flat and easy. I really thought it was going to be easy until we reached Katahdin. I never should have fallen for it. Maine does that; the bait and switch. And I had fallen for it once again.

It began in the morning when I got my period early. Not that THAT was Maine's fault. But being out in the woods at that time is just not the most comfortable thing in the world.

The day started out mildly enough. It was flat, but boggy en route to Nahmakanta Stream Campsite, our original destination for yesterday. We rock hopped across a river crossing and up a metal ladder. Then things got really muddy. 

While walking across a bog bridge, I slipped on the wet wood and fell with my right foot in the mud, up past my boot. The mud was like quicksand; it took me about 90 seconds of wiggling my leg back and forth to overcome the suction and pull my leg *pop* out of the mud. 

So now my right foot was ensconced in a ball of mud; down my boot, up my shin, all around my boot and in the treads. I made it a point to slow down over the bog bridges, especially now that my right foot was all the more slippery from the mud.

A while later, we were crossing another mud pit, this one without the benefit of a bog bridge. We had to rock hop. I took it slow and easy, testing the rocks carefully. Which worked well. Until I came to a rock that was just a little more slanted than the others. My slippery right foot slipped right off the slanted surface and I landed, luckily not in the mud, but on the rock, right on my butt. With my left foot buried in the mud up to mid shin.

Once again, it took a lot of rocking and wiggling to get my leg out, and I needed Subaru to lend a hand for some leverage.  So now both feet resembled muddy soccer balls. Great.

We stopped for some food and I took the opportunity to bang out my boots, wring out my socks, and wipe off my legs. An older couple passed us by, telling us about the rocky, rooty, roller coaster-y day ahead of us. Great.

A few miles later on, as the temperatures climbed into the low 80's, we passed by Nahamakanta Lake and a sandy beach. "Let's jump in." I said. So we were able to rinse off our muddy legs and arms and let our wet socks and boots dry in the sun. It was nice.

I'm so glad we took that dip in the lake. It was a nice bright spot in an otherwise arduous day.

We pushed past Wadleigh Stream Lean To where the rest of the crew was eating and began the climb up Nesuntabunt Mountain. The climb was only 750 feet in absolute elevation gain. But the trail was so disarmingly windy and indirect, that by the time we reached the summit, we had climbed probably 1500 feet to go 750. "Are you kidding me?" we said at the top. And we had another snack.

The descent was more of the same. In order to go down, we went up. And we once again we went down about 1400 feet do descend 750 feet. Stupid Maine!

We then crossed a gravel road,where we saw Grizzly's brother who was picking up the rest of the crew to head to Millenocket for the night. Subaru and I were pushing on. We continued to climb along the roots, the rocks, the relentless ups and downs. I ran out of water 1 mile before Pollywog Stream, as we did not find the previous water source. I got a couple sips from Subaru's bottle and then put the ipod on to distract myself for the mile to the stream. Axl Rose makes everything go a little faster!

After getting some water at the stream, we crossed another road and then started a rocky climb to Rainbow Stream Lean To. The lean to was rather dreary and wet, with a "baseball bat" sleeping platform (made of small diameter logs so it was uneven instead of flat). Once again, we stopped for a break but didn't stay.

After the tricky crossing on a log of Rainbow Stream, we continued along the river for 4 miles. We could hear thunder rumbling in the distance. Oh, great. Now, we were going to get rained on! We hurried along, trying to beat the rain. I slipped on a root at the top of a hill and slid to the bottom of the hill on my butt.

"That's it!" I screamed. "I'm so sick of this stupid trail! I've had it. I want to punch this stupid trail right in the face!"

Now, despite what Subaru may tell you, I did not have outbursts like that on a daily basis. Generally only one breakdown a month or so. And never to the extreme of today's outburst. I mean, I just said I wanted to punch the trail in the face!

But this time, rather than reprimanding me to calm down, Subaru just turned to me with tired eyes and said. "I know. I was thinking the exact same thing." Then turned and kept walking.

In actuality, I didn't really know where the trail's face even was to punch it. Probably at the summit of Katahdin. So I just had to keep going.

Luckily, we reached Rainbow Lake Campsite without rain. We got our tents set up, got some water, and headed down to the lake for a much deserved swim and wash up. We had dinner before it got dark, and all snuggled in our tents before the skies opened up at night. Fell asleep to the sound of rain on the tent and loons calling over the lake. 

I was so ready to be done.