The AT was always the trail I would hike only to get my Triple Crown because it seemed uninteresting to me. During my long distance hikes, I met several people who had hiked the AT and based on what they said about it, confirmed my belief. The one part I looked forward to was Maine and New Hampshire.
They had a stretch of dry weather until literally the day I showed up. Starting on climbing Mt. Katahdin, a mountain I heard great things about, the cloud level was about 100 feet above the tree line, so I didn't see the mountain. It did open up just enough to get one view.
Standing at the Northern Terminus in the fog.
The one view from Mt. Katahdin.
The rain over the next couple days taught me that my rain jacket was no longer that waterproof and that my waterproof backpack even less so. For the first time in my life that I can remember, I couldn't get warm as everything was soaked ... including the trail.
Even though the trail was relatively flat at first, ruts, rocks, roots, and water made the trail difficult to hike and much slower going than I thought it would be. Talking with other hikers and trail angels, I found out Maine was just difficult and many others had similar experiences to mine.
The trail was generally flooded on the AT.
On the positive side, Maine was gorgeous. Fall colors brightened up the scenery and when I finally did get good enough weather for some views, they didn't disappoint.
Fall colors in Maine didn't disappoint.
Fall colors reflecting in the water on one of my good days on trail.
Mt. Bigelow was my favorite in Maine because I finally had some views.
Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a day of no precipitation included three snow storms and changed the conditions so that I had to deal with snow and ice. It provided beauty, but my hands were so frozen that I never bothered to take a picture of it. While crossing Saddleback Mountain during a blizzard, my left hand stopped functioning until I got down to lower elevations and it warmed up some.
While in town after my first winter storms, I finally managed to connect with Jack Gladstone. Jack told me some flattering things, and some things I needed to hear. The most important was that this hike I was doing was not about me.
From that point on, sheets of ice covered large parts of the trail and with the scrambling involved in hiking the AT, at times my pace slowed to a crawl. Even worse, slipping and falling on the ice took its toll on me. A little before making it to the toughest mile of trail, the Mahoosuc Notch, I felt a sharp pain in my back. Despite needing to go another 30 miles to get to the next town, I limped my way there only to find that nobody wanted to give me a ride in the dark. Just when I was about to give up, I got my ride.
The aftermath of the winter storms I went through.
After seeing a chiropractor, I stayed in town for a few days waiting for my back to heal. For a bit, I only went to the closest restaurant for food, McDonalds because I could barely walk that far. Finally, I managed to get to where I could hike a little, but the trail was not something I could handle. More winter storms rolled through while I was in town and the conditions were not something I could physically handle. So I hiked road until I made it past the White Mountains.
While in New Hampshire, I made several attempts to see a couple friends of mine who lived there. Life events kept preventing that from happening, until just as I was about to leave the state, they came down to visit me. Earlier on my hike, Rat gave me a much needed boost when I needed it. Rat and her sister Ant coming to visit me was by far my best day on the AT.
Rat is a hugger. I used to do everything I could to avoid hugs because I hated them, but with age have come to appreciate them. I think I spent half my time with them in Rat's embrace. On one of her last hugs, I felt my back pop and that is the point where it really felt like my back started to improve. The chiropractor helped only a little. A massage therapist, also only helped a little. Rat's hug, helped a lot.
Hiking started to get easier and faster, but as I approached Thanksgiving, the forecast showed record breaking cold. Already, I was in a year with projected record breaking precipitation. I got real tired of hearing the words record breaking. It did get down to 5 degrees and I didn't have the gear with me to handle those temperatures. Fortunately, a couple ladies in Kent, CT gave me a hotel room for a couple nights on them.
Bundled up hiking in 5 degree temperatures.
After the cold came snow. After the snow came rain ... a lot of rain. When I got to the New York/New Jersey border, I met Amazonian and Chamba Wamba. They were finishing their flip-flop hike of the AT the next day. I hiked with them through a crazy downpour for about 6 miles in one of the two instances I got to hike with someone else on the AT. The day after I hiked with them, everything was flooded. The rain melted the snow and with the ground already saturated with water, the water had nowhere to go. At one point, I was walking on a boardwalk in knee deep water.
Flooding on the trail in New Jersey.
Pennsylvania has maybe the worst reputation on the AT as being filled with rocky trails. Frequently called Rocksylvania, I kept expected to be greatly slowed down. However, for once I seemed to get some weather breaks and was able to keep a strong pace throughout the state. I found the rockiness of the trail to be only slightly worse than all the hiking I had done previously.
After passing the White Mountains, the next milestone I really looked forward to was the Mason-Dixon line because I hoped that by the time I crossed it, I would have warmer weather. It also was approximately the halfway point. When I crossed it, I had White Blazed the AT to the best of my ability except for the road hiking I did to get past New Hampshire.
Arriving at the Mason-Dixon line in the dark.
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