I have a partner!

I’m so excited! I have a partner for the next leg of my journey. She’s a lovely young lady who is as passionate about the beauty of the forest as I am. Amazingly, she’s also a nurse AND lives in Maine. She started the AT in Georgia and hiked for 400 miles before returning home. She posted in my AT Women’s Group about wanting to go to the CT/NY line and hike NOBO which was how I was originally going to hike. We leave for CT on Sunday July 5 and will start hiking the next morning. I have 148 miles of Maine left to hike and since the majority of that is the 100 Mile Wildeness which takes ten days to traverse, I’ll have to hike it later. I “might” try and do the Bigelow Range this week but then I might not. I have a lot of things to do before leaving on Sunday.

Here’s what I do while my family watches wrestling  ~ make trail hygiene videos!

Today I’m spent but very happy!

Yesterday I literally spent from 0630 to 1000 looking for Jumper, the beagle who became separated from his owner on the AT on Sunday June 21. I quickly printed the “Missing Dog” picture posted on social media by Maine Lost Dog Recovery and made 30 flyers. Armed with brad nails and small hammers we went to the Stratton trailhead where Jumper ran off earlier in the week. I went NOBO on the trail with my GSD Inga and my daughter went SOBO putting flyers on trees while hubby drove into Stratton proper and posted/searched.

My hasty flyer
My hasty flyer
Good water!!
Lip lickin’ water
Now where do I go?
Now where do I look?

Since Jumper’s owner Eric had been faithfully searching the trailhead area, I thought perhaps Jumper might follow their scent back in the direction they had come, north so I hiked as far as Avery Peak in the Bigelow range before turning back. Then we put the last of the flyers in Rangeley. I saw two hikers walking and asked if they had been on the trail and if so had they seen a loose dog (I didn’t mention breed). They were NOBO and said the previous day they had seen a brown and white beagle running with another dog near Piazza Rock. They remembered it because the dogs appeared to be alone. Theoretically it could have been Jumper they’d seen because the distance between the two locations via the AT is approximately 31 miles and he’d been lost for three days. Armed with this information we drove to a logging road, hopped on the trail and hiked to Piazza Rock. There were several dogs but all were with their owners. I left Jumper’s information with the caretaker and we headed home after stopping at the Hiker Hostel to alert them. The rest of the evening I couldn’t shake the image of Jumper from my mind so on a whim I did my first true night hike – back to Piazza Rock with Inga. Nothing but the sounds of wildlife. Dejected I texted Eric. By this time I was achy, cold and had a headache the size of Texas. My mind kept drifting back to Jumper and my fear that his pack would become ensnared on one of the many pipe size roots that I’ve come to despise. He would be trapped and susceptible to predatory animals that inhabit the area. All of a sudden around 1100 I received a text from Eric saying Jumper had been found! I was ecstatic. Apparently some hikers saw the flyers and took a picture of it. Later they spotted Jumper wandering on the street close to Route 27 and called. According to Eric he was thinner, sans backpack, a bit shaken and exhausted. I am so happy because the thought of him never being found disturbed me. Yes I’m an animal lover, one of those people who puts my animals well-being atop the hierarchal ladder. You know the type – more than one pet yet not in the “Crazy Cat Lady Down The Block” category.
So let me introduce Eric, who’s determination and devotion to his four legged friend never waned, and
Jumper.

Jumper after rescue
Jumper after rescue
Eric and his best buddy
Eric (DreamWeaver) and his best buddy
Wow what a trip!
Wow what a trip!

Jumper will be going home with his grandparents who drove to Maine from New York with several other family members to join in the search. He’ll get some much needed rest, a medical exam and regain the lost weight. Once Eric finishes hiking the rugged terrain of Northern New England, Jumper will rejoin him for the more forgiving remainder of the trail. Eric is a wonderful young man who’s love for his dog humbled me. It’s been an honor to interact with him and I wish them the best of luck going forward in their journey. I know his parents are very proud of the fine young man he is. I hope I’ll meet them somewhere on the trail, IF I can manage to finish the last 148 miles and get out of Maine. Meanwhile, if you meet DreamWeaver and Jumper on the trail, please say hello.

PS. I think Jumper’s trail name should be “JJF” for Jumpin’JoeFlash.

Missing Dog

Today I climbed Sugarloaf which wasn’t as difficult as I’d feared. My family left me on the trail just south of it this morning because my intention was to stay out and continue on towards Stratton then the Bigelows. I was having lunch atop the “Loaf”, marveling at the excellent cell reception when I received a tweet about a missing dog. Jumper is a 5 year old beagle that was doing a SOBO with his owner. They’d made it through the 100 Mile Wilderness and most of the Western Mountain range when Jumper took off at the trailhead in Stratton on Sunday June 21.  He had his pack and leash on which is what concerns me. I’m sure he could chew through his leash if it became tangled but the pack could become ensnared on one of the many pipe sized roots. I’m not sure he could get himself loose if that happened. I really can’t imagine what it must be like for his young owner – to be in a strange state far from home, extremely limited cellular signal, only the pack on his back and his dog is missing. So I made the decision to come home and print the “Lost Dog” picture that Maine Lost Dog Recovery posted online. I made 30 copies and have enlisted my family to go with me to Stratton early tomorrow morning so we can help this young man in his search. We’re getting on at the trail head with me heading north and daughter heading south, hanging flyers on trees and armed with hot dogs. Hubby will take the town section which is extremely small. Hopefully with extra eyes out there we can find Jumper. I was fortunate that his owner, Eric, reached a cell signal tonight and I was able to tell him my plan.

Please say a prayer that Jumper is found safe and reunited with his owner.

**I did get a lot of nice pictures and videos while at Sugarloaf which I’ll post over the weekend.

                               Jumper
         Jumper

Mountain Goating, Crab Crawling or Bear Crawling?

I’m trying to define the way I’m traversing the Appalachian Trail in the Western Mountains of Maine. Sometimes I walk confidently along the trail, taking in the beauty of the woods coupled with the sounds of nature. I’ll take a short break sitting on a moss-covered tree, fiddling with my pack or camera. Other times I’ll reach a steep pitched area full of craggy rocks and pipe sized tree roots and say “Oh hell no”. Since I’m determined to make it to Katahdin I brace myself and find a way up the rocks. Seriously, if someone told me a year ago I’d be doing this I would have laughed.

Mountain Goating
Mountain Goating
What I feel like
What I feel like

As for my crawling technique, not really sure what it’s called other than “Please don’t let my pants rip”.

I’m just beginning to see other hikers and I always watch how they scramble up and over the rocks because maybe there’s a better way that poses less risk to my pants. Tomorrow I’m ascending one of the 4000 footers so I’ll take Cliff Notes ~ I’m sure there’s a more graceful way. My GoPro is finally updated so perhaps I can capture a lesson on video.

Where's Waldo?
Where’s Waldo?
???
                    ???
More hikers
          More hikers

Hiking Maine

Hiking Maine is something I definitely don’t recommend doing solo if at all possible. And if solo is your only option then carry a GPS device such as the InReach or Spot which will allow you to send an SOS. I’ll admit I got off trail near Saddleback but luckily found my way back to it by following the sound of the stream. It gave rise to the thought ” What if I REALLY did get lost?”. I’ve seen online comments that nobody can get lost on the AT in Maine because it’s well marked. Wrong! I passaged several areas in the Western Mountains where the blazes were faded and almost unrecognizable. It’s early in the season and NOBO’s are arriving slowly and SOBO’s just starting so one doesn’t see a myriad of footprints in the bogs etc. to indicate you’re on the correct path. To date I’ve seen two SOBO, two NOBO, a family of four day hikers and Mr. Magoo’s twin brother. So when I got off trail I just relied on sound because every time I looked at my InReach it told me a waypoint was “.2 miles” – no matter where I was or what direction I was headed. Then I sent a test message from the InReach and it took almost an hour to send leading me to the conclusion that GPS was sketchy. BUT at least it finally went so even if just used for an emergency it’s well worth the cost in my opinion. Several times while navigating the rugged terrain I thought ” What if I fall?”which again made me thankful I had a GPS transmitter. The other day a man from Texas fell and broke his ankle. It took rescue crews over 4 hours to get him out because the area was so rugged. Sad way to end his hike that began in GA. I wish I had a partner for the rest of Maine but since I don’t it’s carry on Quickie. Two more days of hiking and I’ll be done with the rugged terrain – for a little while. I estimate I’ll summit Katahdin around July 12 – give or take two days. Usually the AT in Maine takes about one month to traverse so my time is on target considering I had some missed opportunities. I’ve decided however to take BB home and leave her there until I’ve completed Maine. The terrain is just to difficult and I don’t want her getting hurt. When we walk through bogs she sinks almost to her tummy.

Piazza Rock
               Piazza Rock
BB at Saddlback
               BB
Enroute to Saddleback
  Enroute to Saddleback

Having her tethered to my waist is difficult because the lead gets caught on roots or rocks requiring me to free her multiple times. It’s hard to take pictures because I’m never really hands free. I’ve also noticed more wildlife activity in the woods after 3pm which frightens BB. I hear noises that I don’t hear earlier in the day, especially the eerie scream of fishers.
I’ve also come to the conclusion that peakbagging the 3000 and 4000 footers carrying my backpack is really hard. I was concerned about my “fake knees” but it’s the metal in my ankle that seems to ache with the activity/extra weight. So I’m tackling the mountain ranges as day hikes carrying a lighter day pack. I’ve always complained because living in the Western Mountains of Maine means a lengthy car drive for most things. For the AT however it’s manna from heaven because I live right in the middle of them. I know; I’m getting spoiled by being able to return home at the end of a day but that luxury is quicky coming to an end. I’m ready!!!

Rain, Rain Go Away

I’ve done 89 miles since June 7 which isn’t too bad considering the terrain. The AT is somewhat convoluted in Western Maine as it seems to weave and crisscross. The good thing however is that after being on it for almost a week,  AWOL’s Guide finally makes sense. Previously it felt like reading hieroglyphics whenever I tried to study it but once I started hiking and got a visual feel for the trail, the guide made sense. (💡) .

So far I’ve been doing a combination of day hikes and a few overnighters because my daughter has been joining me but  can’t do overnights. However I’m almost to a point where coming home at the end of the day would involve a lengthy drive so towards the end of the week I’ll start staying out until I’ve completed Katahdin. After that  I’ll return home to get on the trail where I initially started only this time to go SOBO.

Today I spent quite awhile in the Sugarloaf area where I saw a young moose. Of course he appeared as I was digging through my stuffed pack and by the time I was ready to take a picture he’d disappeared. I’m sure there will be many more sightings as moose are common in Maine. While I was hanging at Sugarloaf I decided that my backpack was too heavy and both ascending and descending inclines were more difficult because of it. With my 3 L bladder full and several days of food it weighed 40# ~ too much. Last week Matt, owner of  Tumbledown Brewing in Farmington, helped adjust the pack and gave me valuable insight as to the most efficient way to pack. Today after returning home I touched base with another hiker and she helped set me on a lighter course. That, coupled with the advice from Matt, made a huge difference. My self made first aid kit had so many items that it probably would have worked in a war zone; definitely an overkill. I ordered a lighter but equally efficient water filter from REI which will hopefully arrive soon. Based on my hiking friend’s suggestions I swapped out a lot of clothes.  Then came the really hard part. It was “very difficult” to thin out the assorted hair products I’d packed to maintain “The Bush” but it had to be done. I’ll just have to stop every once in a while to have it weed whacked. End of that problem.

Showers are forecasted again tomorrow but I have a pack cover so am headed back out. I actually find the woods somewhat tranquil during rain but not sure if Bailey B will feel the same. So far she’s been a champ but…….

Grounded

Glad to be home but anxious to return. I’m grounded for rest of the week but for a good reason – I am loved. Apparently a black bear attacked a teenage boy in the Smokies a few days ago. Young man is so lucky he didn’t lose an eye. My daughter is concerned because Maine has a black bear population so she ordered bear spray from Amazon which is scheduled for delivery Friday. It’s going to add another 11 ounces to my weight but who am I to complain? I feel blessed to have a daughter that loves me so much. My friend came over and assembled the tent in a matter of minutes. How many ways can I say Duhhhh@me? I’m going to set it up several times before going back out to make sure I’ve mastered it. He also looked at my JetBoil and it has a broken igniter wire. I could just continue to use matches but considering it was over $100 I think I’ll exchange it at LL Bean. I’m just tired of gear replacements and shopping in general; I’d rather be hiking. I do have one more thing to buy though, a life jacket for BB. I’d feel better with her wearing one when we ford. She’ll be attached at my waist and if for some reason I drop her she’ll be safe with a jacket until I can scoop her back up. She looks small but she’s actually 25#.