Day 127: Carlo Col Shelter

Day 127. Well, today went a bit differently. I’m not sure if the trail was significantly worse for them, or if the guys were too worn out from yesterday’s hike, but we didn’t go far today. The main obstacle of the morning was Mt. Success, a 3,500 foot mountain with some pretty steep sections of climbing. We reached the top sometime around noon, meaning our pace was a slower 1 mph compared to yesterday’s 2. We were still a couple miles from our mid-point of today’s hike though (the Carlo Col Shelter), so I pushed the crew further and we eventually reached the campground at 2:30. Then we discussed our situation, everyone’s feelings, and our options.

Side note, we crossed into Maine after coming down Mt. Success! I didn’t realize it at the time and didn’t see the signpost calling it out, but I’m officially in my final state and on my way to Katahdin. Woot!

The fatigue in my friends faces was a bit worrisome. We still had plenty of time to hike the 4.5 miles to the next campground (Full Goose Shelter), but the weather was becoming more of an issue as well. The heat was intense, the steep rocky sections were slow-going, and thunderstorms were on the horizon. With 3 more climbs up Goose Eye West Peak, Goose Eye East Peak, and Fulling Mill Mountain still to come in the day … the crew decided to audible the trip again.

On my own, I would not be as concerned, but there were two real problems with visitors to the AT that concerned me:

First, if we go on, we start tomorrow’s hike with Mahoosic Notch and the Mahoosic Arm. The Notch is considered the “hardest mile on the AT”, as it requires maneuvering under, over, and through giant boulders at a snail’s pace. You literally have to throw your poles and bag through a narrow rock gap, then squeeze yourself through, then slowly navigate to the next hole. It’s a 0.8 mile section that takes thruhikers an hour to complete, in good conditions. Following that, is the climb of Mahoosic Mountain known as the Arm. This is one of the steepest climbs, as the trail rises 1500 feet in 1 mile. I’ve read countless stories of hikers breaking bones, getting lost, and even dying in this section of trail in bad conditions. There is no phone service if needed, and no exit point to civilization if something goes wrong. Doing this trail if it has rained in the past few days even, creates a water slide of life-threatening proportions. And we have 90% chance of rain and thunderstorms from 5am to 2pm tomorrow.

Which brings up fear #2, if we don’t make it over the Arm and down the steep descent to Grafton Notch at the bottom, we may not have another way to get off the trail. The guys all have flights to catch on Saturday and we need to get them back to the car in Gorham by tomorrow night. With the change in pace today, I’m finding it hard to believe we could finish the 4.5 miles today and have much left in the tank to do the 10 tomorrow needed before dark. It’s obviously doable, but adds significantly more risk.

So, with those very real concerns in mind, we discussed our situation, options, and preferences. I won’t call anyone out, but let’s just say some of us wanted to take on the challenge while others wanted to avoid widowing their wives. We scouted out a blue blaze side trail that leads from this shelter off the mountain and made the wise decision to stay here tonight, hike out the 2.5 miles from here in the morning, and get picked up at the trailhead below.

In truth, this was a smart decision, but also an enjoyable one. With a whole afternoon together sans-hiking, we hung out, caught up on each other’s lives, went for a swim in the river, and ate dinner in comfort. We then stayed up late into the evening storytelling and laughing with Gandalf and Much Obliged who wandered in later. We stayed up until nearly midnight (another record for me on the trail) and I spent the final moments lying in front of the shelter just staring at the stars. It was a nice Nero Day for me in the woods, and none of my friends died on the trail … win win.

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!

  • Start Mile: 1904.4
  • Start Time: 09:00
  • End Mile: 1909.6
  • End Time: 14:30
  • Miles Hiked: 5.2
  • Miles to Go: 281.3
  • Lodging: Carlo Col Shelter

Day 126: Gentian Pond Shelter

Day 126. What a great day. After the sh*t show of yesterday, with all it’s painful falls, today was a cake walk … for me, at least. For my faithful friends, perhaps not so much. When asked how difficult this section of trail was, I told them it was extremely nice. With 10 being the hardest, it was a 2 or maybe 3 out of 10. Seriously, after what I just finished in the Whites, today was amazing. When I asked Aaron the same question back, he replied “this is the hardest hike I’ve ever done”. So, yeah, there’s the AT in a nutshell for ya…

I loved today. And I am extremely impressed that my warrior crew of hiker friends that have traversed Glacier Park, Yosemite, Denali, North Dakota, and more were able to join survive hiking the AT with me (so far). We knocked out a fantastic section on some beautiful trails, speckled with rocky ups and downs of course. But we ended at a gorgeous campsite next to a lake, high up in the mountains with a clear view to Independence Day fireworks going off in the town of Gorham, 12 miles away.

The weather was hot, surpassing 90 degrees at the day’s apex, but the shady cover of the green tunnel protected us and provided cool air for the majority of the day. The summits at Mt. Hayes and Cascade Mountain were spectacular, providing clear views from high up to the White Mountains in the south, in a dazzling display of blue skies and golden sunlight. They were tough for my comrades though, so we rested often, drank lots of water, and kept a slow and steady pace. Actually, our pace was close to 2 mph, so not even that slow. Like I said, good terrain and great day!

When we got to our campsite at Gentian Pond Shelter, Max and I scrambled up a side trail rocky cliff to a plateau area overlook, and searched for a stealth campsite there we could all enjoy. Unfortunately, it was too small for 4 people so we moved over to the tenting area of the shelter.

Side note, I highly recommend solo hikers scramble up to enjoy that stealth spot, it was awesome for one tent or hammock.

These are elevated wooden platforms for camping next to the shelter, so we picked one of those for camp instead. Adam and Aaron set up their (very small) 2-person tent for the night, while Max and I hung our hammocks from fir trees next to it. We spent the rest of the night enjoying a lot of great conversation, food, whiskey and laughs. I haven’t stayed up past 10pm in months, and as tired as we all were after 8 hours of hiking … it was totally worth it.

The 3 of them … whose temporary trail names are the collective “Los Tres Gatitos”, wanted to write tonight’s blog. But after a hard day of hiking and a hard night of drinking, their journal entry dreams slipped to instead being a quick Siri-dictated string of anecdotal one-liners expressing their inner-most thoughts and vague memories. I have a feeling we’ll add these to the end of each night’s post while they are out here, as it’s pretty funny to watch in person. Here’s their own words to describe the first day of their AT hiking experience…

An oral dictation of the day’s events, as transcribed from Los Tres Gatitos…

  • It was a 3 out of 10 for some but a 12 out of 10 for others.
  • Blisters rampant on us, but Mike was a stud
  • Their were too many things to carry and only one solution presented itself, give it to Mike
  • I didn’t know we were going to hike through Degaba
  • We looked for wildlife but only saw one very impressive thing
  • Lots of horse flies
  • Aaron’s heart nearly exploded, flew out of his chest and landed on the trail
  • We had to execute an emergency medical procedure
  • My toenail is near falling off
  • Also, Max has slightly less skin on his head than when he started
  • Luckily there is not much blood flow through there
  • But sitting here looking at the stars, drinking whiskey, and hearing fireworks in the distance makes it all worth it
  • Happy Fourth of July y’all
  • Peace out

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!

  • Start Mile: 1892.6
  • Start Time: 08:30
  • End Mile: 1904.4
  • End Time: 18:30
  • Miles Hiked: 11.8
  • Miles to Go: 286.5
  • Lodging: Gentian Pond Shelter