August 16th 2018
Gentian Pond Shelter – Old Spek Mountain (mile 1920.2)
15.8 miles + 0.6 of side trails
Total miles: 1945.8


There was a wonderful lightning show last night which was lighting up the shelter and it looked like it was coming from the ridge behind us. I tried to watch something on my phone but I could barely keep my eyes open. It was absolutely roasting in the shelter. It wasn’t that warm outside but the shelter really retained the heat. 

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We packed up and it started raining. Oh no. I really didn’t want it to rain today. Thankfully it was only a shower and we were in the clouds for a while but it soon cleared up. The first task was get to the top of Mt Success. They put me in front. I don’t know why. Did they sense that it was difficult being at the back all the time? I hadn’t said anything. 

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On the way up we saw a southbounder who said she had spent a lot of time yesterday helping another hiker who had fallen and landed on his head. It was Halfslow. He had fallen off a rock and the girl had to help him up as he was trapped upside down in a cave. She said that he was ok and was able to tell her who he was and the date and all that stuff (I wouldn’t have been able to tell someone the date!) and he was able to walk away but he was seeing stars. Not good. 

I lead us up slowly. As I dropped down off a rock I kept going and landed in some trees leaving a nice cut on my knee and blood running down my leg. As we got above the tree line it became exposed and very windy. We were still in the cloud at this point so there were no views really and no reason to stay up there. It was only a couple of miles to the Maine border and I was still in front, but when I came to a rock I was hesitating over which way to descend they others found and way down and then sped up. They must have been really frustrated getting stuck behind me. I could see that they were slowing their pace for me and when I still couldn’t keep up with them, I cried. 

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I tried really hard to fight it. I didn’t want them to see I had been crying and I didn’t want a cry face in the photo at the border. I couldn’t fight it. It just came out. It had been bubbling on the surface all morning. Now I just needed a tiny reason for it to spill over. Hiking and crying are not compatible. You can’t breathe and you can’t see which are two skills you need to have. At the border I tried to hide the fact I had been crying but they weren’t fooled. They asked me if I was ok and I just burst into tears again. I just can’t stop crying I said. 

So in other news, we made it to Maine! Finally! It feels like we have been in New Hampshire for ever. Everyone says southern Maine is brutal so here we go. 

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We climbed up to Goose Eye West peak and about half way up we stopped to have some lunch. The sky was clear and the sun was shining but it was really windy so we sat there with our rain coats on and lying on the rocks trying to shelter from the wind. On top of the peaks it was really windy. So windy that it blew Jukebox’s glasses off her face! That was a pretty funny moment – My glasses!!!!

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The trails between the West peak and Goose Eye East and Goose Eye North peaks was exposed in places and there were lots of boards and planks and wooden ladders to help with getting over the tricky bits of trail. There were metal ladders and there were so sketchy bits of trail that had no ladders at all and it was basically rock climbing. Free soloing. The most dangerous type of rock climbing! 

We eventually made it to the shelter where we collected some water which was a steep climb off trail down to the stream. We were surprised at the amount of northbounders there. Some we had never met before. Bloodhound was there and he said he had word from Halfslow. We thought he had fallen in the Mahoosuc Notch but it turns out he had fallen just north of Mt Success where there are a jumble of boulders which are not unlike the boulders in the Mahoosuc Notch. So he managed to get to a road and Miss Janet picked him up. Good news for him. Bad news for me because he is now behind me and I may not get to see him. 

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Then we just had 1.5 miles to go to get to the most infamous section of trail. One mile of boulders. It is said to be the slowest mile on trail. So when we got to the start we made sure everything on the outside of our packs was secured and we stowed our trekking poles. We made a note of the time and went for it. 

It was fun, mostly. There are parts where you think I really hope I don’t fall here or lose anything down one of those big holes. For the most part it is big boulders and I had to sit down many times to get over them. Sit down and slide. There were a couple of areas where the trail suggested to squeeze through a small gap. We went around one and through the other. We had to take our packs off and drag them behind us to do so. There were areas where it was really cold and the water flowing in some parts was icy. I bet it was great tasting water. 

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I was using my arms and hands a lot and my hands were getting really sore from the rough rocks. There were a few times where the others lent me their hands or gave me a boost up a rock. It is doable alone but more fun when there are people with you. We decided that we were descending into the mines of moria, like in lord of the rings and we decided that Jukebox was Legolas because she was just leaping from rock to rock with her long legs and rock climber background. Peaches was Aragorn because she was always helping and was also very competent in jumping form rock to rock. And because I have to short legs and make a lot of grunting sounds when I’m trying to get up onto rocks, I am Gimley. The dwarf. 

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It wasn’t that hard but it was tiring. I was using my arms more than I’ve done in months. We were so lucky with the weather. Not only was it not raining, but everything was dry. We got through in 1 hour 20 minutes. A long time for a mile but quick compared to some stories we have been hearing. Between 3 to 5 hours we heard. We sat and had a little break as we were all starving, then as it was only 4:30pm we didn’t need to camp yet. There is a campsite at the end of the Notch and we had that as plan A as we didn’t know how long it would take us to get through. Plan B was to to the Mahoosuc Arm which is a climb of 1500 feet over one mile. It was 2.5 miles to get to the shelter and we had 3 hours. So we went for it. 

I knew I was going to be slow but I was really slow. There were walls of sheer rock and it was so slippery. There were side trails that went around them and I took them but even the earth was slippy. I cannot imagine doing any of this in the rain. I was utterly exhausted. My legs are so heavy they feel like lead weights. There is absolutely no strength left in any of the back of my legs. No bum muscles, they have completely disappeared and my hips feel like they aren’t strong enough to support me. Not to mention my knees which have been hurting for the last 100 days. 

I struggled my way to the top. I passed an older man who was struggling much more than me. He said he was exhausted and I really felt sorry for him. I knew how he felt. And he was slipping and sliding all over the place. He was trying to stick to the rock face but I convinced him to take the side trails. He would be there all night if he didn’t. 

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It took me an hour to do the mile, then there was another 1.5 miles to the shelter. The trail mellowed out a bit and followed some boards and some flatter slabs of rock. I was walking along normally and suddenly my foot slipped from underneath me. I landed hard on my bum, slightly protected by my pack my my head snapped back and forward and I felt like I had whiplash. I also landed hard on the palms of my hands which were already sore from the rock climbing. Now there were really sore. 

After more stumbling and slipping over rocks and roots I made it to the junction of the shelter. The others were sat there filtering water. The shelter is off trail and so is the water so they got extra and gave it to me so I didn’t have to go down there. We decided not to stay at the shelter. It was one of those basic ones with a fee. Instead we decided to climb another mountain! Another one mile climb up to Old Spek mountain. There is an observation tower there and some stealth camping spots. I was in the lead. Another one mile climb. The first part of the climb wasn’t too bad, the usual, there was a slight reprieve in the middle where it flattened out a bit. Then the real steep stuff came. It was also really exposed so again, wouldn’t be keen on doing that in bad weather. 

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Jukebox fell at one point and managed to somehow miraculously avoid serious injury. She flattened peaches who also avoided injury. It was crazy that we made it through what we did today and then we have potential disaster in the last mile! It was really steep up to the junction where the AT carries on its winding journey north east or you go 0.3 off trail to get to the top of the mountain. Thankfully the difficult stuff is done and there is a very gradual uphill ridge walk to the tower. 

The tower was such a glorious sight. The end of the day. 7pm. A solid 12 hour day. The good news is that I was feeling much better now. Much less emotionally unstable. Much more composed. I didn’t feel like bursting into tears at any moment and I hadn’t cried since crossing the border this morning. 

We pitched our tents. It was much cooler up here and I think we will be in for a chilly night. But if I get my layers right hopefully it will be a nicer sleeping temperature compared to last night. 

What a day. What a big day. So much happened. We went up to the observation tower to watch the sun set and eat dinner. It wasn’t an easy tower to climb as there wasn’t a nice set of stairs, but a long vertical ladder. It was really cold up there but the sunset was awesome. As soon as the sun went we got down and into our tents and tucked up into our sleeping bags. 

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I feel quite weather beaten today. We were in the sun for a bit but I think it’s mostly down to the wind. As I lie here my whole body is sore but my legs especially are pulsing. I’ve popped an Aleve PM so hoping that will make me sleep well. 


Watch the video!

For this trip I made a daily video diary which you can watch here: DAY 100

 

 


 

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