Made it from Denver to Leadville. Six full days of hiking. One mostly rest day. About 140 miles hiked. Lots of sun, some rain, plenty of hikers and mountain bikes. To be continued…
After weighing the pros and cons of hiking the Colorado Trail (CT) during a global pandemic, I’ve decided to go for it! I feel confident that I can do so safely and have the ability to hunker down in the event of covid. CT here I come!
I’m hitting the trail in a few days. Planned start date August 3. For those who are curious about trail stats, the trail is almost 500 miles long. I’ll hike from Denver to Durango. Friend Mike will provide me with a ride to the start of the trail. I’ll put Yakushi, my adventure japambulance, in storage. I’ve planned the hike to minimize hitches and town stops. I will be going stoveless in order to simplify my resupply. Some places I’ll stop along the way include Twin Lakes, Monarch Crest Souvenir Shop, Creede, Molas Lake, and Durango. Maybe a few other stops along the way. In Durango, at the end, I’ll most likely rent a car and drive back to Denver.
I’ve been off the trail for over 6 months now. It took me a long time to wrap up those last two blog posts and now they’re done! It’s time to not only reflect on my AT section hike from New York to Maine, but also to think about my upcoming treks. These covid times make planning a hike, and life for that matter, largely up in the air and transient. I’m grateful that I’m not sick and that nobody I know has lost their life to this crazy disease. For me the largest impact has been a delayed, possibly cancelled, job which has me paused in Flagstaff AZ and unsure of my next steps. Anyhoo, I digress.
So. The Appalachian Trail. What was my experience like? Am I glad I hiked 500+ miles over the course of a few months? Pros? Cons? Highlights? Lowlights? Trail aspects and idiosyncrasies? Other thoughts and advice? Read on.
First, I’m so happy I hiked on the AT last summer/fall! Sure there were ups and downs physically, emotionally, and more, but there are always going to be highs and lows no matter what you do, your activity, job, hike, relationship, etc. For me hiking and long trail is always worth it. Maybe it’s the endorphins. Or the immersion in nature. The elimination of decision fatigue and simplistic one-goal oriented task at hand. The instant community. Whatever it was, I loved the AT. I’ve been telling friends and family, sure, there were tons of bugs, it was hot and humid and sticky, the views sucked most of the time, but I loved it.
Pros: long distance trail, familiar New England, so many trail towns, feeling like progress by passing through so many states, trail culture, community, variety of weather, New Hampshire White Mountains, hiked on familiar trail on the southern end of the VT Long Trail, required little planning, shelters to stay at, tons of water, historic sites, old stone walls, glacial geology, meeting friends and family along the way, staying with friends and family, I literally hiked to my childhood home, being dirty and tired, swimming in rivers and lakes, crazy hiker trash, rainbows, thunderstorms, sunsets, sunrises, trail magic.
Cons: ticks, mosquitos, black flies, too many trail towns, humidity, heat, rain, cold, chafe, dense monotonous forest, swamps, trash, being dirty and tired, roots and rocks, crazy hiker trash.
As you can see, the pros outweigh the cons. Thinking about hiking the AT? Do it. Post-pandemic that is.
The highlight for me was the trail community, culture, and camaraderie. When I hopped on the trail at Bear Mountain, New York I had just traveled through distant and impersonal NYC and was so happy to see fellow hikers. I set up my tent amongst the first group I came upon and this posse – Biscuit, Gravy, Tumbledoor, and Ridgerunner – became a group I overlapped with and hiked with on and off. I’d most recently hiked the Arizona Trail, where hikers are few and far between and the presence of others is novel and exciting. My AZT experience really helped me to appreciate sharing trail and camp with other hikers. At first I was so eager to see other hikers and engage in the “where are you going? where have you been? what’s your trail name conversation”. I had that conversation a lot. When I grew weary of it, new hikers became the norm, and saying hello lost its thrill. There were so many other hikers out there. Sometimes I’d see dozens of others every day, other times just the same few. I loved knowing that when it was time to set up my home for the night at a shelter there would be others sharing the same experience. Sometimes around a campfire. Occasionally taking in a sweet view. And sometimes vying for space, tolerating the sounds of college kids, or overhearing YouTube shows – which was less exciting. I got to know a lot of other hikers – people who I might normally never cross paths with, engage in conversation with, or develop friendships with. While I was merely a “section hiker”, I could keep up with the best of them, and I earned the credibility of a thru-hiker. I even joined a tramily (trail-family) dubbed “The Breakfast Club” and became hiking buds with Tales, Sock Ninja, Mountain Laurel, Balto, Blue Jay, and Dare Devil. We shared a few fantastic home-cooked breakfasts at different hostels. I overlapped and got to know a handful of other hikers too – Supervisor, Buttcheeks, Faceplant, Tadpole, Glow Worm, Gummies, Ambassador, Sorchi, and more. The trail bonded me instantly with MK and Jason, my trail angels for a night, who were former AT hikers and hostel caretakers themselves. Sure there was the odd-ball annoying or creepy person here and there, just like real life, but for the most part the people were great. A bonus for me, having grown up and lived in New Hampshire most of my life, is that I also got to hike with, stay with, and hang out with friends and family! I met my friend Krista for beer and food in Massachusetts, sweated through the heat at a Bluegrass festival in Vermont with my friend Renee and her fam, visited my parents, and hiked for a day with my parents and cousin Kristy and her friends.
The lowlights of the AT in New England may be obvious at this point. Hot humid and otherwise shitty weather, biting insects, and lame views. My first night on the trail I draped myself in my super light 45 degree sleeping bag and was sweating bullets. Nights just don’t get cool at low altitudes on the east coast. Days were just as stifling. Chafe – the love child of moisture and friction – became a real thing as my shorts rubbed between my legs, my shirt rubbed my armpits, and even my toes rubbed together. If the air wasn’t being sticky, it might be all-out raining. And then there were bugs. Black flies and mosquitos. Attacking my face, biting my skin, buzzing in my ears. A bug net was essential at times, without which I’d probably have had a mental break. Did the views make up for the misery? No. No they did not. A lot of forest. A lot of flat. No epic alpine vistas to write home about, with a few exceptions in the New Hampshire White Mountains. For days. Weeks. It can be easy to get discouraged without super rewarding views. I must say that despite the shit weather, insects, and relatively “boring” forest, the AT made up for it in people.
Some other trail aspects to comment on: elevation, terrain, water, resupply, trail towns, gear, and navigation.
The elevation is relatively low, compared to western trails like the Pacific Crest Trail, Arizona Trail, and especially Colorado Trail. This makes for relatively warm nights and not having to worry about altitude sickness.
The terrain on the AT, as most folks probably know, is aggressive. Steep climbs and descents over the shortest distance possible, few switchbacks, and plenty of PUDs (pointless ups and downs).
Drinking water is rarely a worry especially compared to a lot of trails (like stretches of the PCT, the Continental Divide Trail, the Hayduke Trail, or the Oregon Desert Trail).
Resupply is easy-peasy. I did the least resupply planning I’ve ever done on a long distance trail and had access to plenty of great, though at times decent, hiking food in the many trail towns I hiked through.
As for trail towns, honestly they were all decent. Not much was super stand-out. There was plenty of town access. Most places had available fresh food and resupply fare. Many of the towns blended together. I do recall that my last stop, the geodesic Human Nature Hostel near Andover Maine, was a gem.
What was navigation like? Super easy. I used the Guthook (now Atlas Guides) navigation app. Between that and the white blazes, finding the trail was a breeze.
My gear on the AT varied relative to other hikes in a few ways: I had a new shelter, different sleeping bag, I switched up my socks, bug protection was critical, different rain gear, and varied sun protection. The shelter I used was the Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape and Net Tent – a super tiny shelter that was also my rain gear. It’s so light and packable! And not super expensive. And also doubles as my rain gear. But it barely fits me by length (and I’m 5’2″) and is impossible to sit up inside comfortably, so it’s less ideal in settings that lack other shelter-hang-out space. I’m so glad I opted for the net tent at the last minute, without which I would have been literally devoured by mosquitos. I chose to carry my 45 degree bag, instead of my 20 degree, through most of the hike – a better choice in the warm weather, though I would have been fine with just a sleeping bag liner in the warmer sections. I switched my socks from single light or hiking weight Darn Tough wool socks, that I normally wear, to a double layer approach to combat blisters. I wore thin Injinji toe socks topped by thin Smart Wool socks, a great combo when humidity and blisters are a thing. Bug protection is a must! I used a combination of permethrin (pre-treated my clothing), bug spray (on my skin), and a bug net (over my face) to keep those damn buggers away. Rain gear – again, my Gatewood Cape was my rain protection – so while it may have looked super nerdy, it was very light and eliminated the need to carry a separate rain jacket. The poncho was also breathable relative to a confined rain jacket, which for me is essential in warm humid east coast climes. Sun protection: normally on trail – like the PCT and AZT – I carry sunscreen and sometimes even a reflective umbrella. The long-green-tunnel that is the Appalachian Trail eliminated the need for sun protection of any kind along its shady path. Other than switching up these items, the rest of my gear remained the same (same ULA Circuit pack, OPsack and Ursack food storage, titanium MSR cookpot and pocket rocket stove, long handled titanium spoon, Thermarest NeoAir air mattress and SeaToSummit inflatable pillow, phone and Anker backup battery, etc).
If I hiked the AT again, what would I do differently? Well, I think I will hike it again – just different parts of it. Since this was only a 500 mile section hike, I have plenty more trail to hike (about 1,700 miles left!). In time. Probably in sections. I would like to prepare better by being in good shape to start. I wasn’t in bad shape this time around, but not tip top either. Being in better shape makes getting used to the trail a little less miserable, and for less huffing and puffing. I might consider a different shelter, something I can sit up in. I may hike in a skirt (a Purple Rain Adventure skirt) plus compression shorts. I would carry a sleeping bag liner instead of a bag in warm sections. Next time around I will probably do a little more food resupply preparation and send ahead more healthy food like dehydrated fruits and veggies. I’m sure I’ll think of a few other things to change, but these come to mind.
Next trails to hike: I have dreams of hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail, the Colorado Trail, the Uinta Highline Trail, and the Trans-Caucasian Trail. One day. Happy Trails!
Yakushi the Van and I are off on another advanture. This time we’ll depart from Flagstaff and drive in a whirlwind 5-day counterclockwise loop through places like Monument Valley, Goosenecks State Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Cedar Breaks National Monument, and Horsehoe Bend.
May 27, 2020
Mid-morning I hit the road and drive north through the Navajo Nation. Then through Monument Valley where monoliths of red rock rise from the desert floor in strange and lovely shapes. Through the town of Mexican Hat. On to Goosenecks State Park. It’s hot here. And windy. A man is angry at his very pregnant wife, who sticks to her guns about something, and he complains loudly about her on the phone to someone. Here the San Juan river has incised through layers of time and sedimentary rock to form exaggerated meanders, or “goosenecks”. It’s only 4pm so I opt not to camp here. I return to the town of Mexican Hat to fuel up, then continue on down the dirt road leading to the Valley of the Gods, which harbors more rock formations of red rock. At the camp spot of my chosing I fing a Yeti travel mug which I imagine fell from the roof of someones vehicle as they sped off into the desert. Anyway – score for me. I savor a beer and a no-cook dinner in the heat and hope for a good nights sleep.
May 28, 2020
I wake early in the Valley of the Gods to admire the desert sunrise. The road winds up from the valley floor atop Cedar Mesa and I take in the valley views in the waxing morning light. A short hike for me at Bullet Canyon Trail, followed by fruit and granola for breakfast. On to Natural Bridges National Monument. It’s small and pretty and I feel antsy so continue on after only a short walk. Back on the road toward the town of Hite, on the north end of Lake Powell.
I drive over the Colorado River. So many red and orange rock cliffs and formations. Lunch pitstop at the Hite Overlook where I sit on an extremely hot rock under the blazing sun and eat quickly until I can tolerate the burning rock seat no-longer and am back on the road and bound for the Burr Trail. Past Mt Hiller and Mt Holmes. The landscape is so pretty and varied. I diesel up at the first of many stations in Ticaboo. A right turn onto the narrow and winding Burr Trail Road – named after James Atlantic Burr who drove his old timey cattle here, back in the day. Very few vehicles or people are out here. Skies look like rain.
I consider a hike in Surprise Canyon, which looks beautiful with rocks of red, orange, yellow, and white at its mouth. But after some fat drops of rain fall and my flash flood paranoia surfaces, I decide to drive on instead. The Burr Trail is dirt here. I drive up the iconic and spectacular Burr Trail Switchbacks, snapping a picture at every bend. When I reach the top it’s early, only 3 pm, but too pretty to pass up, so I decide to van camp here. There’s a little spot tucked off the road, complete with a picnic table. I pass the time without phone service with writing, reading, and podcast listening. The tiny flies here are horrendous. I waffle between staying or going, but opt to stay, looking forward to a morning canyon hike.
May 29, 2020
I wake at the top of the Burr Trail switchbacks. Thankfully there were no tiny flies in the night. I probably would have gone insane. After coffee I hike a few miles down Lower Muley Twist Canyon – named by Mormon pioneers who thought a muley sure could get twisted in this tight canyon, no joke. The canyon is spectacular! Photogenic towering canyon walls of all the desert colors. I see only one other hiker heading into the canyon on my way back up. Granola. Back on the road. And back onto pavement. Burr Trail winds through so much red rock! I’m tempted by a few different canyon hikes (the Gulch?).
I continue on to the town of Boulder and Route 12. More cars and people back on the main road for sure. The road suddenly snakes along top of a ridge with amazing views of the canyons below. Maybe I’ll hike down below at Calf Creek Falls. When I approach the parking lot I see cars and trucks spilling out of the lot and down the road. Um, pass. Drive on to Escalante, Tropic, Panguitch, and up (oh so slowly in Yakushi van) to Cedar Breaks National Monument. There’s still some snow up here! Lovely overlooks of the orange rock formations below. Sadly the trails are closed here. I find the campsite at Bear Flats that Tim and Melody mentioned. It’s only 4, early, but I stay. A little windy. Lots of four-wheelers and dirt bikes zipping around. Podcasts and dinner.
May 30, 2020
A full whirlwind day. I wake irritable. A short walk on the Marathon trail. I feel eager to descend to lower elevations. After breakfast I’m back on the road and winding down the road with traffic tailing me. Fuel up. I’m near Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, but pass. I’m already at Kanab! This is where I started my 2018 Arizona Trail hike. I stop at a market for some snacks. Onward to White House Campground/Paria Canyon. It’s hot. I eat a lunch wrap. Cute campground though. As I set off for a hike, a middle aged dude intersects my path and begins to chat. I deflect the semi-weird vibes and hang back, reminded of the weirdo creeper I’d hitched a ride with before my AZT hike, not far from here actually. Come to think of it, every weird male interaction I’ve had has been in southern Utah or northern Arizona…what’s up with that? This guy hikes ahead but then I see him paused at a canyon thing, now shirtless. Geesh. I’ve seen enough. I turn back. Besides, it’s hot as hell out here, there are storm clouds in the distance, and I’m in a canyon. Fuck it.
I return to Yakushi and drive the washboard road back to 89 and toward Page. It’s windy and ominous clouds hover overhead. Yakushi gets tossed around by the winds. In Page the wind turns into a legit sandstorm and I pull over. I tuck behind a McDonalds where I use the WiFi for a second until the windstorm subsides. Time for me to check out the overly-instagrammed Horsehoe Bend. I’m hoping the wind and sand may have cleared out a few tourists on this Saturday afternoon. I pay the $10 entry fee and walk the 1 1/2 miles to the semi-crowded overlook. A few young women crowd me out from my vantage point to snap the perfect insta-pic I’d overheard them planning. Admittedly, the view is great and very photogenic. The blue river, the red rock, the green trees, the deeply incised Colorado river meander.
From Horsehoe Bend I head over to Vermillion Cliffs – huge towering pinkish red rock walls. Beautiful! The desert storm continues. Intermittent rain, lightning, wind and sand. I consider camping nearby but it’s still too damn hot. And it’s pretty early. Guess I’ll climb in elevation up to Jacob Lake, AZ. I find a nice, cooler, spot tucked in the pines. A few other vans and campers tucked into other pulloffs as well. Dinner, podcasts, YouTube TV, read, sleep.
May 31, 2020
Breakfast. Coffee. I go for a walk along the AZT north from Jacobs Lake. Relatively flat and uneventful topography. Drive back to Flagstaff. Headwind, climbing, and high elevation make for slow speeds but Yakushi and I make the trip unscathed.
Yakushi the van and I depart the lovely and enchanting Gila River Wilderness in New Mexico, bound for Pine, Arizona. I seek familiar footing on the Arizona Trail. I’m remembering the colorful red rocks, vibrant cacti, and rough aligator bark junipers in this this transitional stretch between northern and southern Arizona at the edge of the Mogollon Rim. It was here in the fall of 2018 that I had been hiking with Mary and Dan and met Tarek and Andrea before we all assembled at THAT Brewery with David over burgers and beer.
This time it’s just me and my van and I’m only here for a few nights. I arrive on a Wednesday afternoon, I think, and van camp here for the night.
Thursday morning I wake and get ready for one night on the trail. I get a text – it’s Billy (Shepherd), a friend from the PCT, who is continuing on his Arizona Trail hike with a few friends including Herro, another PCT friend. He’s wondering if I’m still in Arizona because he’s hiking into Pine tomorrow. No way, I’m here now! And wait, is that his van parked in the corner? I thought it looked familiar. We’ll meet up tomorrow.
I set off on the trail headed north and mostly uphill. Familiar red dirt, manzanilla and oak, expansive views. I’m in my head when I hear a rattle and jump back, just a few feet from a coiled diamondback rattlesnake. Shit! That was close. I should have attached that dang osha root to my shoes, but forgot. Osha is supposed to keep rattlesnakes away. After another few miles I run into a few young hikers – Kara and Meow Meow – when they ask for ibuprofen. I share some meds and tape for Kara’s blistered feet and learn they’re friends with Andy, another hiker I know from the PCT, who started the company Pa’lante packs. Such a small world. I continue on and stop for a hammock and water break at Webber Creek. Four hikers from Phoenix arrive to set up camp, we chat, and I take off up the trail for a few more miles. Past a dude in his underwear washing up in the creek. Ok. At 4pm I turn around and head back to the spot at Webber Creek, thinking I might camp here with the Phoenicians. I show up just when a ranger arrives and tells the folks here they have to move out of the flood plain. Onward it is. The desert sparkles, bathed in lovely waning pink-tinged light. Dusk is always the best time to be on trail. I trek on for a few more miles and set up solo at a random switchback nook. Flat enough. Peeks of purples and oranges in the sunset. Ramen, tuna, hot chocolate dinner. Podcast and read.
Friday morning I’m up and at ’em. I pack up after coffee and have my oatmeal further down the trail. A handful of miles later, I’m back at the Yakushi and the Pine trailhead. Lo and behold – Shepherd, Herro, and friends! Such a great and random encounter with trail pals. No hugs in these covid times. I check out Shepherd’s VW van and give a tour of my Hiace. Then back to Flagstaff…
Departing from the White Mountains of Arizona on a Wednesday, the advanture continues into Silver City, New Mexico. Here I explore the Gila Cliff Dwellings, van camp, and hike and backpack along the Gila River and the Continental Divide Trail.
Yakushi (the van) takes me south and east from Arizona into New Mexico. My goal is to park and van camp as close to the Gila National Monument as possible. I drive the windy road from Silver City, through Pinos Altos, and into the Gila. Sweeping valley views along the narrow mountain road. In the afternoon I arrive at the entrance sign to the Gila National Monument. A truck, trailer, and tent are setup on a spur nearby. There’s an itty bitty spot big enough for Yakushi just before them. Perfect.
Thursday morning I day-hike to the cliff dwellings. I arrive a half-hour after opening and have the place to myself. Not another soul in site. The dwellings are very cool. I continue down the road to TJs corral and hike overland to the spur for Little Bear Canyon which will spit me out at the Middle Fork Gila River. As I hike deeper into the canyon, the walls narrow and cliffs tower in this small magical space, an idyllic creek winding along the canyon floor. I had no expectations for Little Bear which makes the canyon all the more spectacular. At the intersection with the equally amazing Gila River, I turn right and travel downstream. Overlapping, crisscrossing, and wading through the knee deep river dozens of times in a few short miles.
The trail ends for me at a parking area where I encounter more and more hikers. A short road walk brings me back to Yakushi, my van home for the night.
Friday I drive the twisty-turny-windy mountain road back to Silver City where I camp at a campground, for a change of pace. Do some laundry. Connect to the interwebs.
Saturday draws me back toward the Gila. I make the drive via Mibres, a slightly less winding and mountainous route. Tonight I van camp at a popular spot along a dirt road somewhere before Lake Roberts. Lots of other cars, trucks, tents, and rigs. I lounge in my hammock. Read. Use my solar shower.
Sunday morning I return to TJs Corral, a trailhead for many trails along the Gila. I park Yakushi and set off with my pack on my back. Back along the overland route and into lovely Little Bear Canyon. This time, when I reach the Middle Fork Gila River, I turn left and head upstream. Crossing the Gila time after time, wading through the river. I take a dip in a deeper pool. I bypass the camp spots near the natural Jordan hot springs, which are not very warm, and continue west along the trail and river. Around 5 or 6 I spy a great little sandbar where I set up camp. Along the river of course, a secluded spot, sunny, and open. I set up my tarp with a stick for I have no trekking pole. I rinse off in the river, eat dehydrated rice and beans dinner, hydrate, read, and at last sleep.
Monday arrives and I wake sometime after 6 am to diffuse morning light. Much tossing and turning last night. It was far too warm for my 20 degree down bag. I somehow feel rested. Oatmeal and coffee. I continue my journey along the Gila, passing only a few other hikers all morning. At the “Meadows” junction I chill in my hummingbird hammock near some creepy animal bones. From here I hike the 1 mile uphill departing from the river. I spy a coyote – it does not cross my path, which according to the Navajo would have been a bad sign. Perhaps just a warning to be vigilant? I see one other hiker up here above the river. I return to TJs Corral in the evening, happy to see Yakushi waiting there for me. Everything is intact, though the fridge temp has risen to 50 degrees, which tells me my battery will power it for 2 nights without a new charge.
I return with Yakushi back to my familiar camp spot near the Gila National Monument entrance.
The next morning I set off for Pine, Arizona. First a pitstop at Doc Campbells, normally a CDT hiker haven, less so in these covid times. I’m able to shower and eat ice cream, what more could I need? Back on the road, I drive toward Pine where I plan to hike along the Arizona Trail for a day or two…
A trip of firsts. One of my first “advantures”. My first explorations of New Mexico and first hike along the Continental Divide Trail.
The first stint is a drive from Flagstaff to the Mt Baldy area in White Mountains of Arizona. I arrive as darkness closes in to find the Gabaldon Horse Camp closed. No matter, I easily find a spot to park and camp on nearby FR 409. The White Mountains are a beautiful mountainous expanse. It’s late so I (admittedly) inhale a can of baked beans and crash.
In the morning I have a lazy breakfast involving vegetables and rice. My goal is to hike Mt Baldy, up the east trail, down the west. A short drive to the parking lot. A few other vehicles. Onto the trail. Up I go. Lovely tall and lumpy rock formations along the way. After a few miles, I hit snow. Hmm. The hike will be shorter than anticipated. I walk a short while further, the trail is snow-free again. The trees open up and there are valley views. So sunny and gorgeous. Snow on trail again. There’s still a thousand or more feet to gain and more snow than I want to deal with. Down I descend. A handful of other hikers. Maybe I’ll return some snow-free day.
Back to my van. Exploration on wheels. Find another camp spot on FR 409. This one has nice hammock trees. Time to read and laze about, make an epic chicken dinner salad, and chill.
The next morning I go for a short stroll along the forest road before descending into the lowlands once again, bound for Silver City and the Gila River…
It’s Yakushi’s maiden voyage. Well, aside from when I picked her up in Portland and drove her to Seattle – Vashon Island to be more precise. And aside from all the other countless voyages from the first 29 years of her life… But it’s our first big road trip together. I picked her up just days ago. Now I drive southeast to build her out followed by northeast to my seasonal job with the Appalachian Mountain Club in New Hampshire.
I’ll drive through Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, and Arizona. With a quick stop in Reno to pick up Havelock wool insulation. Everything I own is stuffed into Yakushi. When I move my belongings around at night there will be just enough room for me to sleep on the fold-down seats whilst parked in various Walmart parking lots. My plan is to build her out in Flagstaff with the wonderfully generous help of Tim and Melody – Arizona Trail Trail Angels, turned Arizona Van Angels.
My first stop is a quick dinner with friend, Chris, in Portland. I park and sleep in a parking lot somewhere an hourish south of the city. The next morning I meet my friend, Julie, for tea closeish to Eugene OR. No time for other adventures or explorations with my tight timeline. I dream wistfully of pitstops to the Sierras, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Yosemite, Big Sur, or Joshua Tree. These excursions will have to wait. Transforming Yakushi’s interior from ambulance into tiny home is my priority. Stay focused.
I drive. I eat. I sleep in a Home Depot lot. Westward winds welcome me into Flagstaff, buffeting Yakushi around on the highway before I arrive at my home for the next little while…
Sun, Sept 8
A semi-short and easy day.
It rained all through the night until 9 or 10 am. I manage to stay mostly dry in my small lil’ poncho tarp with gaps around the sides. Success! Super lends me his fuel can so I can make my oatmeal and coffee – thanks for your generosity Super. It’s a chilly morning. I have no headroom in my tarp so I chill with Jingles under their tarp for a minute where there’s actually room to sit up.
Eventually I pack up and hit the trail around 10, after the rain stops. It’s steep up the Mahoosuc Arm for sure, but honestly it’s nothing out of the ordinary. Super passes me. I’m at the Speck Pond shelter for lunch at noon, where I meet Nature’s Son, then the caretaker, Tigger, whose plan is to stir poop today. It’s cold and I bundle up. Back on the trail after a 30 or 40 minute break. Up Old Speck Mountain where it’s super windy and cold. I can barely see anything. Then down, down, down. Past a few folks who tell me of a cooler full of trail magic ahead. Always exciting. Once at the parking lot, I enjoy a snack cake, Oreos, and a sandwich from the trail magic cooler along with a Sobo Flip-Flop Yo-yo’er chick called George. A passing parks employee shares news of sunnier weather on the horizon. It’s definitely cold now, so I would love a little sunshine.
After my leisurely break, it’s time for an afternoon uphill. Another 2-3 miles to Baldpate Lean-to. I arrive at the small 3-sided shelter before 6. Another 4 miles to the next? Nah. It’s a relatively short day and I always feel the push to max out my miles, but I’ll enjoy this shorter-mileage day while I can. At the shelter and vicinity I find a group of gap year kids, Super, Nature’s Son, and Peanut. It’s just me and Peanut set up in the shelter. Relax and hang out. Ramen. Hot chocolate. Whew it’s nice to air out all my wet gear. I settle in for some writing in the chilly air before hitting the hay. Tomorrow it’s less than 10 miles into town…