Tuesday, 5 January 2010

The Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail 2009 by David Breen

The 185 mile walk was my hardest walk on the Appalachian Trail. It took me over two weeks to get my trail legs, 16 days walking and 6 rest days. Total climbing from Gorham, New Hampshire to Highway 15, near Monson, Maine 80,000 feet. Some days I was lucky to walk 10 miles.

Tuesday 25th August 2009 - Day 1. I got a ride to the trail; a really hard day of climbing and steep descents and after 10 miles I had to stop at 5:30pm, my left thigh giving me pain. I found it difficult walking a few yards for water, tarp up for the night (it didn't rain but my goose down sleeping bag was no good in the freezing night and I had to wear all my clothes).

Day 2. More climbing and steep descents and after entering Maine, a few tricky rock steps that required care, they were slippy after a rain shower; I got my foot stuck on one of the steps, I was hanging over a 15 foot drop and no foot hold for my left foot but somehow I eventually was able to free my left foot and continued the descent to a shelter where I stayed the night. Three more walkers arrived, one late at night using a torch. Another cold night.

Day 3. My early breakfast was spoiled by a woman smoking in the front of the shelter, I packed up and left quickly, words would have little impact and I looked forward to the day ahead.

Maboosuc Notch - its little over a mile but it took me nearly four hours to scramble over, or under the myriad of giant boulders - its not called the hardest mile on the trail for nothing, It kind of looks like the ice fall on Mt Everest but without the ice( of course). It was a maze to scramble through and you would quite quickly get lost if you missed one of the white blazes that mark the trail. In places I had to crawl through small tunnels, dragging my pack.

Day 4. A long day of climbs and descents to Graham Notch. I got a ride to the village ofBethel, 17 miles, by a young man and his dog. They had walked from Grafton Notch to Monson in 10 days, him also carrying all the food for his dog. (On my first day on the trail I had met another young man and his dog who had walked from Mt Katahdin, to 10 miles from Gorhum - 290 miles in total in 3 weeks. He was eventually headed for Springer Mountain over 2,000 miles away).

I rested in Bethel for 3 nights, first in a motel, then 2 nights in Chapman Inn - B&B was 33 dollars. I had the place to myself to do cooking, read or watch TV in a nice lounge. I liked Bethel, only a small town with one main street with a good shop, post office and a small library to use the computer.

Day 7. Three lifts brought me back to the trail at Grafton Notch, the last lift by a man in his 80s returning to Canada after sailing of the coast of Maine.

Another hard 10 miles to Andover. I got a lift to Pine Ellis Lodging house. The driver gave me food and drink including some beef which I never had time to cook so I gave it to the hostel when I left.

Day 8. Another hard slog to South Arm Road, 10 miles walked. I hitched back to Andover so I could stay in the same hostel, the only trouble a top bunk and quite cold in the small cabin.

Day 9. After a great breakfast I hitched back to the trail and got a lift from a man out to pick blackberries. This day was again hard and I was low on energy. I had to make a wild camp about 4 miles from Oquasoc Road. A very peaceful night under the starts.

Day 10. The 4 miles took me 'til 12:30. I met two people from Florida, section walking like me, who took my photo and I gave them my address. I got a lift to Oquasoc. In a cafe, a lady phoned for a lift. Bob came and drove me to his hostel Gull Pond Lodge, 2 miles from Rangeley. B&B cost 20 Dollars (with free washing!) I stayed 2 nights. I walked into Rangeley twice for meals and the library.

Day 12. Bob drove me back to Highway 17. The 13 miles to Highway 4 took me 9 hours, mostly flat but the rocks and tree roots made it slow walking and I was still tired. I rested in the sun a lot. A lift back to Rangeley and walked back to Gull Pond Lodge for another two nights for rest and good food.

Day 14. Bob drove us back to Highway 4 for the start of the 32 mile walk to Stratton. I went over Saddleback (4100ft) and The Horn (4040ft) and Saddleback Junior (3655ft) to a wild camp near Lone Mountain (3260)

Day 15. Up early with the sun. A hard day and a steep descent to a river followed by a long climb up South Crocker and North Crocker (4400ft). An easy descent of five miles to Maine 27 Stratton Road. I Hitched to Stratton Hotel and Hostel. Stayed two nights and watched the new president's speech.

Day 17. The hostel warden drove me to the trail for 7.55 am. Nearly 18 miles over the Bigelows; Bigelow West Peak (4145 ft), Avery Peak (4090ft) and Little Bigelow (30101ft). Descent to Trail Angel camp that's here for 5 days every September. Free food and drink, great breakfasts - food for the trail.

Day 18. On to Harrisons Ponds Cabins past some large ponds. A 12 pancake breakfast with eggs, bacon, coffee, with the cabin cost me 30 dollars. Tim the owner had breakfast with me.

Day 19. Nearly 4 miles to the ferry across the Kennebec River. Nothing in Caratunk so on to a wildcamp near Moxie Pond.

Day 20. I walked to the Horseshoe Canyon Lean-to. Spiceman shared the shelter with me, a through walker from Springer.

Day 21. Easy 9 miles to Highway 15 near Monson, took 6 hours counting one hour cooking lunch. I was 112 miles from Mt Katahdin. Hitched to Shaw's Hostel in Monson and stayed 3 nights. Then took a lift to Portland and the end of my walk for 2009.