Breaking Records

Today, we slack-packed from Pinkham Notch back to the White Mountains Lodge and Hostel (a section called the Wildcats). Slack-packing is where you leave most of your gear at the hostel or lodge in question, and then hike with a smaller amount of stuff – normally just food for a meal or two, and water (and a filter, jacket, etc.).

When I started the hike, I was expecting to finish in 8-10 hours, which is pretty fast. With a day-pack, I figured, I could go faster than my normal pace, even over harder terrain. The Wildcats were really tough, probably tougher than a bunch of the ridges/ranges we have done so far.

About an hour in, though, I reached a sign that said I had gone 3 miles. At that pace, I figured, I might have a shot at beating the 6 hour 47 minute record that Marni (the owner of the White Mountain Lodge) told me had been set by an ex-special forces operative.

At 2:12pm, I reached the hostel. I had started at the trailhead at 8:05am, making my total time for the 21 miles of the Wildcats 6 hours and 7 minutes. I had broken the record by a solid 40 minutes.

I didn’t set out to do it, but in the end I was able to push my body to incredible lengths to attain the record. It was screaming at me to stop for the duration of the hike, but after setting my goal of beating the record I just ignored the pain.

I would “rest” on the ups (go only 1-2 miles an hour) and run the downs (the ones that weren’t so steep that I would die if I slipped, at least). Avoiding the mud and running down steep trails with rocks and roots was tough on my muscles and knees, and now I’ll spend the rest of the day resting and recuperating. My average miles per hour was 3.43, although I went much slower than that on the uphills and much faster on the downhills. The final downhill was 5.5 miles of trail – I ran the entire way.

I’m proud of my accomplishment, though I didn’t set out to do it. Dokha – a northbounder staying here as well – has already said that he’ll sing praises of me to southbounders that he meets on his way to Katahdin. I don’t know if I quite deserve that, but it’s cool to know that people will be talking about me.

There’s a really cool post from the White Mountains Lodge and Hostel here. I can’t find a good topographical map of the ridge with a quick Google search, but look it up! There were 5 major 4000+ foot mountains, and you descend a lot after most every mountain. Lots of ups and downs!

Gorham, NH

We’re here in Gorham taking our second zero day (sort of). We stealth camped near the White Mountain Lodge and Hostel last night, and came in this morning. We ate a HUGE lunch at an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, then restocked and resupplied at Walmart. We crossed into New Hampshire yesterday morning, finishing our first state! At this hostel, we’re sitting at mile marker 298.3. Only 1900 miles to go!

This hostel is amazing. It’s amazingly clean, and the lodgings/land is extremely well kept. There are a bunch of people here: Booker and his sister (who is going to hike the Whites with us), Magic, Web MD, Banner and I, Robin, a few new SOBOs I hadn’t met yet, and some northbounders as well.

I’ve started taking videos during some interesting events – a sort of video blog, if you will – and those videos end up in the “Pictures” album/link in the left sidebar. Check it out!

Day 17
Spaulding Mountain Lean-To
13.2 miles
This day wasn’t particularly hard, but it took a long time. The trail was consistently rocky and steep, and we just took our time getting to the shelter. We met a woman named Lambchop – who had an Aussie accent but said she was from Arizona – and slept at the shelter with a man named Asa, who we met in Stratton. He’s 70 years old, and is hiking the trail as the start of his retirement. We’re planning on a short day tomorrow, so we’re probably just going to sleep in.

Day 18
Poplar Ridge Lean-To
7.~ miles
What an easy day. Even with a mountain or two, we had no problem with the day. We didn’t leave the shelter until 10am, and then got to the lean-to at 3:40pm. Easy days like this are great for morale! Banner and I just ate and talked and enjoyed the weather for the rest of the day.

Day 19
Stealth Camping
12.~ miles
Fun day, even though we climbed a *lot* of steep mountains. We went through the Saddlebacks, a range of mountains where the ridgeline is mostly rock and grass, which makes it much easier than the typical rocky-and-rooty Maine uphills. We took a few videos of this day, because it was so fun. We hitched a ride into Rangeley with a nice fisherman. At the grocery store, a woman who thru-hiked in 2014 stopped us and asked us if we needed a ride back to the trail. Her name is Sunsplash, and we got a picture with her at the trailhead! Then, while we were eating a very delicious dinner of store-bought sandwiches and snacks, two ladies who were taking pictures of the AT sign in the parking lot stopped and asked us if we were thru-hiking. When we said that we were, they asked us all about it and gave us some of their food (greek yogurt and other stuff). We ate it right away.
Right before we got to the road to Rangeley, we heard a very loud sound coming from the bushes to our right – it sounded like an animal was barreling right toward us. Banner and I both reared back in an attempt to get ready to defend ourselves.. and then a grouse (chicken-like blue bird) comes out of the woods. Once it sees that we aren’t scared of it, it begins to run away. We were embarrassed that we were scared, but we learned something new: grouse are dumb.

Day 20
Bemis Mountain Lean-To
18 miles
We hiked and hiked today. About halfway through the day, we were caught by two faster SOBOs: Monk, and Megan, a couple from Canada. Monk has done the PCT and the CDT, two other long (2000+ mile) trails in America, so finishing the AT will earn him his “triple crown.” When we stopped for lunch at a lean-to, we found Weirdo, Magic, and Web MD there eating lunch as well. We had been trying to catch up with them since Monson! When we got to the lean-to that night, we packed in 9 people (into a 8-person shelter). People just kept showing up, SOBOs and NOBOs alike. There were even 6 people camped outside of the shelter as well! Tonight was the first night since Monson that we slept and fully interacted with others in the shelter.

Day 21
Hall Mountain Lean-To
13 miles
I don’t quite remember what we did this day, but it must have been hard. Here’s what I wrote in my journal, word for word:
“Today was rough. Slight rain, really hard terrain. Muddy, rocky. Long, long up and downhills. So much ups and downs. Calves hurt.”

Day 22
Frye’s Notch Lean-To
11 miles
We woke up early with the new crew (Weirdo, Magic, Web MD, Banner and I) to get into Andover early enough for breakfast and a resupply. Such a good idea: any breakfast would have been good for hikers, but this diner did it *right.* It was so delicious. Today, we discovered that Weirdo’s nickname had come before the trail, so I started calling him Booker (because he goes fast when in the front, and he books/plans the mileage and whatnot). After the resupply, the Trio (Booker, Web MD, and Magic) went ahead 3.5 miles because they heard that it was supposed to rain the next day and wanted to get some hard miles done. Banner and I stayed behind. The shelter filled up quickly, and others had to camp outside. At this point, Robin has started to tag along in our group of 5 to make it a group of 6. There is a video of us sitting in the shelter this evening!

Day 23
Bald Pate Mountain Lean-To
3.5 miles
We made it the 3.5 miles to the shelter that the Trio stayed at, but it wasn’t easy. The “monsoon” that we had been hearing about was no joke: we had to climb and descend Bald Pate Mountain, a mountain whose sides are pure rock slabs at 30 to 45 degree angles, in the pouring rain and sideways wind. Sheets of water flow down the rocks and make it extremely treacherous to continue. Slipping and falling happens often, and the wind and water in combination with the temperature chill you to your bones. Once in the shelter (discovering the Trio sleeping soundly), Banner, Robin, and I decide to attempt to wait out the storm while the Trio presses on. We made a good decision: the rain only gets worse throughout the day. There’s a video of the pouring rain from the shelter! To catch up with the Trio, we’ll have to do a lot of miles tomorrow.

Day 24
Carlo Col Shelter
18 miles
We did a lot of miles today, and all of them were tough. We went through the Mahoosuc arm (an extremely steep downhill) and the Mahoosuc notch (called “the hardest mile on the AT”). The notch itself wasn’t too hard, just time consuming: it takes most people about 2 hours, but it only took Banner and I a little less than an hour. There are a bunch of videos in the Notch in the album. The arm, though, was extremely dangerous – super steep, super slippery. Falling during some of these parts meant falling for a ways. We met up with the Trio at a shelter about 14 miles into our day, and hiked the last four miles with them. It wasn’t easy, but it was better having people to hike with. The shelter that we arrived at had 4 walls and a door cut out of it, with 2 floors inside the shelter! Good thing, too, because we ended up meeting some NOBOs that were staying there (total count of people: Myself, Banner, Booker, Web MD, Magic, Tiger Beetle, Robin, Crumbs, Bruin).

Day 25
Stealth Camping
17 miles
Long day, trudging up and down many mountains. We made it all the way to the hostel today, but in efforts to save money we found a campsite (stealth campsite) not too far from the hostel and slept there. Banner caught a ride into town, first, though, and grabbed some McDonalds for us. It was so good. They gypped him, though: they only gave him half of the food that he ordered. Luckily, another person from the hostel (“Guardian of the Vortex”) was headed into town, and took him along so he could get the extra food. Tomorrow we hike like .2 miles and stay the rest of the day at the hostel!

Day 26
White Mountains Lodge and Hostel; Gorham, NH
.2 miles (basically Zero)
Today we woke up lazily, got into the hostel lazily, and then got rides into town for a delicious Chinese buffet. I ate so much that it literally hurt to stand up, and I wasn’t quite sure that I was going to be okay. Then we resupplied at Walmart, and now we are just hanging out, resting, and watching movies. Tomorrow we slack-pack the Wildcats: we will leave our real packs at the hostel, and hike 21 hard miles with small daypacks. Then we’ll arrive back at the hostel and sleep there again, rest for the first half of that day, and do 5 miles to the next shelter. In short: we’ll be “in Gorham” for 3 days, but while we are there we will do 26 miles AND have a zero and a nero! What a wonderful stay in a wonderful place.

The next PO box is Warren, NH! Address is as follows:
(Hiker Name)
PO BOX 03279
Warren, NH

Don’t forget to write “hold for AT thru-hiker” on the box!

Look for a bunch of pictures and videos in the link on the left! We’re having a great time!

I got all the packages that were sent to me – thanks so much! I have *so much* food, now – it’ll take me quite a while to get through it all. I might even have enough to make it to Warren without resupplying! We shall see! I have WiFi here and can receive emails and intermittent text messages!

Rabbi

Stratton, Maine

First of all, I’d like to excuse my typos and grammatical errors in my posts. We’re just posting from a phone, and I tend to type faster than normal because we want to use the precious time we have in towns as best as possible, so I didn’t edit my blog. Whoops. Forgive me!

We made it to Stratton, Maine today at around noon. This really nice older couple picked us up from the trail head and took us to the “town,” which is like five buildings. We’re staying in a hostel that I can’t remember the name of – it’s okay, but just seems like a hostel to us. Neither of us really have excruciating pain anymore (though there is a little bit).. I/we feel like we’re getting our hiker legs and starting to get the trail under our belt! 180+ miles down, 2000 to go.

Day 11
Horseshoe Canyon Lean-To
7.~ miles
Today we woke up early-ish (around 6:30) and packed up our stuff. We partook in Shaw’s breakfast – which was absolutely delicious and all-you-can-eat – and then got a shuttle into Greenville to hit the grocery store and the outfitter (that oddly share a building). Banner and I both picked up some trekking poles (which have been enormously helpful) and he picked up some Teva sandals, too, which don’t hurt his Achilles. With the new shoes and poles, we set out, did a few super easy miles, and slept in the shelter. A northbound lasher (Long-Ass Section Hiker) named Twiggs showed up late at camp. He was cool, and got his name from the cool looking twigs and sticks that he collects to make art.

Day 12
Bald Mountain Brook Lean-To
13.2 miles
Today we got up late, got started even later, and finally finished hiking around 5:30pm. Pretty regular day, here. Hiking and eating for about 12 hours, repeat. It rained like crazy all night.

Day 13
Campsite/Caratunk, Maine
Rabbi: 15 miles, Banner: 9 miles
Today was.. different. The crazy rain last night flooded everything. Even grassy places were flooded with feet of water, and a lot of the time the trail was more water than trail. Some of the pictures on this day (6/13) hopefully capture just how much water we waded through today. Then, Pleasant Pond Mountain has a million false peaks, so you always think you’re getting to the top but then there’s another peak above you. Additionally, the blow downs (trees and stuff in the trail) were horrible. Imagine scrambling Old Rag style – then imagine that with trees in your way. Very difficult and slow progress. At the top of the mountain, as I was waiting for Banner, I realized that I wouldn’t have enough food to make it to Stratton. So, when he got there, we discussed it and I decided that I would have to hike extra far that day to make it to the highway so I could hitch a ride to a general store. The highway was 7 miles from the top of the peak, and it was 2:00pm. To reasonably expect to get a ride, I’d have to start hitching before 5:00pm. I booked it and ran and ended up making it to the road at about 4:30pm. A nice older fish man gave me a ride to the store (8 miles north) and a younger couple gave me a ride back. Great first experience hitching. I ended up taking the tent from Banner, and slept in the parking lot of the AT trail head (which was really just a grassy open space).

Day 14
West Carry Pond Lean-To
Rabbi: 15 miles, Banner: 21 miles
What a day. To make today work, we had to get to a certain point by 11am to get ferried across the Kennebec river (which is the official and safe way). Our plan was for us to meet at the ferry at 9am. At 8:10am, Banner strolled out of the woods into my campsite/the parking lot, having hiked 6 miles already that morning. After a quick and easy ferry, we hiked an additional 15 miles, skipping one lean-to and staying at the next. The hike started out easy, but became a treacherous boggy rock-hop toward the end. Those swampy areas really slow you down and hurt your knees, ankles, and feet. At one point in the day, we ended up walking over the entirety of a man-made dam – not a cement one, but one made with wood planks and rocks. It didn’t even look like a trail – but halfway across, questioning ourselves, we saw a submerged rock with the white blaze on it. Classic AT. Coyotes were going crazy this night, howling all night long.

Day 15
Horn Pond Lean-To
18.~ miles
What a day. The first five or so miles were easy, but the next thirteen were crazy difficult, up and down some extremely steep slopes (read: rock walls). There’s a short video in the album linked in the sidebar – the video is filmed from about 10 miles into our 18 mile day. It was 4 miles to Avery’s Peak from there, and 4 miles after that to the lean-to. Even walking along the “ridge line” we climbed and descended at least 10,000 feet total all day – probably more. The huge rocks and tall scrambles were the hardest part. I saw 3 young moose in the woods today, too! They are huge – even the smallest, youngest one’s hindquarters were taller than my head. Fun and exhausting, all in all.

Day 16
Hostel – Stratton, Maine
5.1 miles
An easy few downhill miles and quick hitch into town. We got into town around 12:30pm, and promptly stuffed our faces. Banner and I must have eaten at least 2000 calories each (not even exaggerating) just for lunch. We’ve been relaxing for a bit – soon we’ll go and resupply for our next few days, and then we’ll hit the hay. We plan to get up early-ish and hit the hiker’s special breakfast at a nearby cafe called the Loose Moose before heading back to the trail tomorrow. Rangeley, Maine is our next stop!

Our next stop is Rangeley, but we will probably be there in just a few days. After that is Andover, Maine, but we might not stop there for more than an hour. For people wanting to send us packages, it may be best to send them to Gorham, NH, PO 03581. We’ll be there in 8-11 days! Also, shoot me a quick email or text if you send us something so I know to go pick it up!

PO boxes are super variable, because we don’t always know which places we are going to stop and which ones we are going to skip. We’ll try to let you guys know at which ones we’ll be stopping at least 8-10 days in advance!

I uploaded a few new pictures to the album! The link is in the sidebar. It’s easier for me to upload them there then directly to the site. Check it out!

Rabbi

Wilderness pictures part 2

imageSlingshot

imageDouble Tap on the left, Josh (no name yet) on the right

imageBen and Melissa

imageLieutenant Dan

imageView of Katahdin from halfway up Whitecap Mountain

imageFrom the top of Whitecap

imageBanner fording one of six rivers on the 9th

Some of the pictures won’t upload to WordPress – especially the panoramas – so I’ve made an album in my Dropbox. I’ve put a link in the sidebar! Check it out! There is an amazing panorama of Rainbow Stream on there, so give it a look.

Jared and I with Will who picked us up and helped us get the supplies and whatnot that we needed before dropping us off at Katahdin
image

Monson, Maine

What a way to start our journey. Jared and I have made it to Monson, Maine, a tiny little town at the end of the 100-mile wilderness. We got in last night but were so tired and had so much to do that we didn’t get a chance to post anything. We’re staying at a little hostel called Shaw’s – the owner/operators are amazing, and so nice. They even came and picked us up from the trail (where it intersected with Maine Highway 15). We’ve completed 114 miles of the 2189.2 miles on the Appalachian Trail – about 5% of the way there! We’ve heard from many sources – including the owners of this hostel, which have thru-hiked themselves – that the part we just did was the hardest of the whole trail. We can attest to its difficulty, if not its comparison to the rest of the trail.

Pictures will be posted en masse after this post!

Day 1
Slept at Katahdin Stream Campground
10.4 miles
This day was amazing. We left our packs at the ranger station and summited Katahdin – due to some confusion and delays, we ended up starting the hike around 10:30am, and finishing around 4:30pm (which is pretty fast, according to some locals). If you’ve ever done Old Rag in Virginia, Katahdin is like a much harder and much taller Old Rag. Half of the trail was hopping on rocks up creeks and streams (the trail itself was the stream). About a mile and a half in, the trail becomes a scramble.. Well, actually, more like a climb. There were literally places where steel rebar was hammered into the rock to give you somewhere to hold/step. This was by far the single hardest summit/hike I’ve ever done, and it was also my favorite. Unfortunately, the top was extremely cold, so we got our pictures and got out. That night was pretty buggy, and we were figuring out all of our gear.

Day 2
Slept at Hurd Brook Lean-To
13.3 miles
We hiked through some crazy woods and bogs, forded two rivers, and walked on planks through swamps. The terrain changed numerous times. The last three miles were the start of the 100-mile wilderness. We expected to show up the to the shelter alone; instead, we found a roaring fire and 11 other southbounders. It’s crazy because we expected to be alone for a large portion of the trip – instead, we’ve found ourselves in a cool group for hikers! One of the guys always says how much his gear is worse than everyone’s – because it was, he had like nothing – and so he got the trail name Downer. Another guy tells long convoluted stories; his name became Homer.

Day 3
Slept at Rainbow Stream Lean-To
11.1 miles
This was by far the most beautiful shelter that we’ve stayed at so far. We pushed it a little a fast to get here, and relaxed the whole day. Jared smashed some logs with a huge rock to get big pieces of wood for the fire, and so someone started calling him Hulk. I call him Banner, instead (for Bruce Banner, the alter ego of Hulk) because it’s a little less intimidating.

Day 4
Slept at Potaywadjo Lean-To
18.~ miles
This day was so hard. We started hiking at 8:30am, and didn’t get there until 8:30pm. There were crazy swamps and bogs that we had to hop and jump and step through all day, and the trail itself was not well kept or maintained. It got so bad a few times that we got a little lost and had to backtrack. Once we got to the shelter, though, we met up with 4 of the guys from the original 13 – Brandon, Josh, Jake and Homer. They were super happy to see us make it – they said it was a huge morale boost. We end up sticking with them for a good long while.

Day 5
Cooper Brook Lean-To
11.4 miles
The hike was pretty easy and straight-forward on this day, but the pains in my knees were horrible. It took forever for them to warm up -over three miles – so I was walking like a cripple for hours. We met Ben and Melissa, a southbound thru-hike couple that are really really nice. We also got to hang out with Slingshot, a guy who brought his slingshot to kill small animals and eat. By this day, he had already eaten 4 (which is illegal, but hey). I got the name “Rabbi” today.. I’ve grown to like it!

Day 6
Logan Brook Lean-To
11.6 miles
Pretty typical day going between lean-tos. Hike some miles, sleep, repeat. At this point, Brandon got the name Double Tap: he was lying down in the lean-to, and when he went to sit up he bonked his head. Then, when he went to lie back down from the pain, he hit his the back of his head too. Banner and I started calling him Double Tap and it stuck!

Day 7
Campsite
13.~ miles
My knees and feet kill. The up hills are easy, but for some reason the downhills are so painful. We made it through fine, but it didn’t feel good. People are starting to call Jake “Lieutenant Dan” (people had before, but it just now started sticking). I started calling him Lute because that’s way easier to say – that started to stick too! At the hostel we’re at now, people were asking me if I had seen Lute and stuff. It’s cool to see a name you make propagate.

Day 8
Long Pond Lean-To
15.~ miles
This was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The wind was howling, the rain was pelting, and it was very cold. In addition, we had to hike at least 10,000 feet of total elevation change. It was so hard. The mud and the water really get at your feet, too, and blister them. At the lean to, we met up with Weirdo and Dawn, who we had met before. They were super stoked to see us. Dawn ended up giving me a bunch of stuff – Ramen, meds – so I started calling her Magic (short for Trail Magic). It stuck! I made sure the other hikers at the hostel heard me call her that, and so now it’s spreading around!

Day 9
Shaw’s Hostel
15.~ miles
Today was even rainier than yesterday. Additionally, we had to ford 6 rivers. We were so soaked to the bone from the rivers and the rain that we just sloshed through the swamps and bogs and puddles and kept at it. We had to go much slower than anticipated due to Banner’s Achilles injuries, and so we didn’t get to the highway until 5:30pm. We called Shaw’s (with 5% battery left and a single bar of service that came and went) and they happily came and picked us up.

Day 10
Shaw’s Hostel
Zero
Today, we relaxed. We also made some “zero shoes” which are basically just vibram soles and paracord. They are going to be our lightweight camp shoes. We’re trying to get a ride into Greenville today to pick up some groceries and some trekking poles – we’ll see how that goes.

We’re aching but good! We’re thinking about taking another zero day tomorrow to fully recover, but we don’t know for sure. Picture dump coming soon!

The next PO box is Stratton, Maine – PO 04982. Make sure to write “hold for AT hiker Ian Leake” on it!

Rabbi

Whitecap Mountain

Hey! Just a quick post – we’re doing well. We stopped at the top of Whitecap Mountain for a second to log our location and make a few calls. We get two/three bars of service up here!

We’re achy, but we’re doing fine. We’ll post a bunch more (including pictures!) when we get to Monson in. Few days!

Airport Waiting Game

Well, we got to the airport with minimal problems (traffic wasn’t my favorite, but that happens sometimes).

Since we’re taking all of our stuff carry on, we sped pretty quickly through the security checkpoints. Only problems: I left one of my water bottles in Lillian’s car, and THEY TOOK OUR PEANUT BUTTER! Apparently it’s “considered a gel.” We can easily buy more of both, it’s just sad to see so much go to waste.

Now we wait! The plane doesn’t leave from this airport until 10:10pm. We’ll fly to Bangor and try to get some rest at the airport until our friend in Bangor – Will – comes and picks us up to take us to the trail. Then it’s a full day of hiking to summit Katahdin and then get to the first shelter. It’s looking to be a 12-14 mile day. Phew.