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!


Wilderness pictures part 2


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

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
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
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!


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.

Week one food!

We hit Sam’s Club today for the bulk of our first week’s food. This will be supplemented with things like fruits and whatnot.

Fun fact: those Cliff Bars were $9.91 a box, when they are normally $19.98 a box. Couldn’t pass them up.

Getting close!

Getting so close! I finally have all my gear (pants pending). This outfit is about to be my life for about 6 months.. I might end up changing to a short sleeve shirt, though, since I have a wool long sleeve base layer anyway.

Jared and I ended up getting the same shoes – they are so comfy! They are Salomon Speedcross 3s – the way that the tread works sort of makes you feel like you have a spring in your step. We’ve heard good things, and we’re hoping these will last us a good 700-1000 miles.


Let the blogging commence

It’s a little early, I know. But I spent a few minutes designing the site, and I’m pumped to have some content on it!

I haveĀ our gear lists on the left side. I’ve heard that the gear you end up with almost doesn’t resemble the gear you start with, so I’m interested to see what happens with that.

Speaking of gear, I’m almost done – I thought I had everything, but the more I think about it the more I realize that I want this or that thing to replace something else. Such is life. I think I am going to get an inflatable pillow; it’s only a few ounces, and as a side sleeper I doubt I’ll be able to fully enjoy the glory that is sleep without it.

Edit: I’ve decided to move around some stuff, and the gear links are actually below! Nope, I put them back in the sidebar!