Carlisle to Pine Grove Furnace

After Katahdin and the Seizure incident, I decided to hike a little closer to my Pennsylvania and North Carolina Family Home bases until we get the medicine situation handled.  So I decided to do what I am calling a Super Duper Looper Thru Hike.  Starting with Katahdin, Jumping to Pine Grove (AKA the Middle) and then jumping to The Georgia Section to do Springer, allowing me to take my time through the middle.

I kind of enjoy the nice slow hikes and seeing all of the trail without having to rush. 

So without further ado here is the Carlisle to Pine Grove Furnace section report..

Going South - The Hardest Part... Part #5

This is the Hunt Trail, The official Start of the trail for me. Standing from the top it looked like the spine of a huge alien beast.  the boulders were bigger than Abol Slide and the drops were more severe. there were times early on where I think I spent more time free falling down a 10ft rock than actual controlled descent.  On either side was a 3000 ft drop and here I was gleefully hopping from boulder to boulder, sliding down one rock only to deftly brace and glide to a safe landing. I was riding a tide of emotion from reaching the peak and feeling like a mountain lion stalking down prey. At one point Brian was in the lead and was cautiously inching his way down and around the side of a 30ft slab of granite, and with my confidence soaring I leaped onto the slab baseball slid my way down the face, braced myself on a boulder below and landed softly beside him. To say I was enjoying myself would be an understatement. but with all this hubris comes consequences. 

According to the Penobscot Indians, Pamola inhabited Mt. Katahdin,  Pamola is said to be the god of Thunder and protector of the mountain. The Indians described him as having the head of a moose, the body of a man and the wings and feet of an eagle. Pamola was both feared and respected by the Indians, and his presence was one of the main reasons that climbing the mountain was considered taboo.

The spirit resented mortals intruding from down below. Because of this, the mountain was off limits to all below. It is also thought that it took its prisoners to Alomkik, located near Katahdin.

I am sure Pamola was grinning antler to antler when we caught up to Duchess and Riffle who were trying to get down a particularly steep drop.

There are places where the drop off is 10 feet or more and the local hiking clubs have set Rebar into the rock to assist climbers. going up is fine because you are using all of your arms and feet and can see the places you need to brace.  Coming down it is a blind drop and not quite as easy to lower a dog down when you are just a shade over 5'4" tall as duchess was.

So Brian went down first and I took a Picture of myself with Riffle before lowering him down to Brian.  Duchess was having problems finding the footholds while still hanging on to the rebar. Her legs were just a touch too short. So I inched my way across the ledge and I used my arms to help her get a little lower while Brian placed her feet on the out croppings.  I then grabbed onto the rebar and lowered myself to the ground.  This is the last full action I remember clearly and we still had 3 miles of descent to go.

The next 4 hours are a blur, Brian said I was lucid one moment and babbling the next, he thought it was just exhaustion catching up with me. We sat down at a small stream and refilled our water. I had the overwhelming urge to urinate and then my next memory is sliding down small 2 foot rock steps in the dark, when did it get dark??

My head lamp was on and out of my pack when did I do that?  I tried to stand up, it felt like my feet were made of lead and the only thing supporting my legs were my ankles.  The rest of my legs were jelly.

I remember Brian pointing out a toad and telling me to put my bug net on..  Every time I straightened my legs the muscles around my knees would cramp up every time I tried to lift my legs I couldn't get my foot more than 2 inches off the ground.  I had felt this way once before, right after a seizure....

The missing time, the intense muscle pain, the urgent need to pee, all signs pointed to a seizure. there were several times I am told where I was just sitting on a rock staring out into space not moving an inch. Then I would get up and wobble my way forward a few more inches and sit down again.

Eventually Brian told me I was just sliding on the rocks one inch at a time hardly moving forward at all.

I remember coming to a bridge over a stream and then coming to a sign that said we had 1 mile to go. Brian told me the next morning that I insisted on getting my GPS out of the backpack to confirm these figures.

Next thing I remember is a clearance and arriving at the Ranger Station. Brian said the Ranger was none to pleased with out very late arrival.  We started the hike at 7:55am and finished the hike at 11:55 pm

We made it to our lean to and I demanded to be allowed to make some tea using my jet boil. I remember waking up several times in the night shivering because I laid down on a ground cloth and hardly covered up before I passed out.   

Here is a picture of the back of my pants after the Descent. They were new Rip stop pants when I started..

Katahdin was everything I could have wanted and many things I feared. She let me live and guided me out of Pamola's grasp.

I had completed the hardest part of the trail beaten bruised, badly sunburned and hardly able to walk but it was the greatest adventure I ever had the pleasure to take part in.

I want to Thank Brian Hackman for his seemingly unending patience in dealing with an unknown situation. He did way more for me than I could ever repay.

I also need to thank the Appalachian trail Lodge for their hospitality and great advice.

With the need to recover from the amazing Katahdin I caught a ride back to Pennsylvania with Brian to recover and plan the next steps.  I will be talking with my doctors on Monday morning but the plan is to hop back on the trail Wednesday at Carlisle PA and take on southern PA, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia before Flip flopping back up to take on the 100 mile wilderness and New England. 

I need to put a few more miles on my trail legs AND find another pair of pants before I dive into the big mountains of New Hampshire.

 

 

 

 

Going South - The Hardest Part... Part #4

After hauling our way up the final rock slide on the Abol Slide Trail we reached the Table lands a nice flat field of rocks that as of two weeks ago was covered by snow. you can see in the pano shot above there are still some patches that have yet to melt. I was just a mile away from the summit and dreaming of kissing that beautiful Katahdin sign at the top.  On the way up we ran into Duchess and her hiking dog Riffle (Like wiffle but with an R) They stared after us on the hunt trail and made it up to the top well before us. More about Riffle and the descent to come.

Somebody was kind enough to put in boulder steps up to the peak which were hard but the peak and the sign were in sight.

a few more steps and there it was the weathered shard of wood at the top of the mountain that had me push through a grueling climb. suddenly the sore muscles were forgotten and all I wanted to do was give the sign a big wet sloppy kiss..

it had taken us 7 hours to get up there and we were running out of daylight fast, I made a phone call to my wife from the peak and let her know we made it and that I loved her. besides my wedding day this was the greatest moment of my life. I had not even taken a single step Southbound on the actual Appalachian trail

It's all downhill from here.. literally... 

Next up: Part #5 The Descent

 

Going South - The Hardest Part... Part #3

After a short water break we began what would be the toughest physical thing I have ever done. This is supposed to be the easy trail. 

During the early part of the trail the rocks were knee high, and they looked like boulders, during the second half they were more like small cars. Take 75,000 Toyota Prius and throw them off a cliff, now climb that pile of cars. Now stack about 30,000 more small cars on top of those at odd angles, throw in some moss and loose gravel and continue climbing for 2 miles straight up with little in the way of rest area's.  That is the second half of the Abol slide trail.

Looking up the rock walls in front of me I realized there could be no turning back, it was going to take a while to get to the top and we were going to be racing the sun home but it had to be done. I think Brian realized if he brained me with a rock he could head back down and quit this crazy adventure. To his credit he only thought about it and soldiered on.

The Abol slide trail is named as such because at some point in time there was a huge rockslide on the mountain and somebody thought hey a shortcut! The thing about rock slides is the rock hasn't always found a stable resting place and wants to continue the slide downhill.  Tons of loose rocks were just waiting to plunge down on my head with nothing but a simple slip of a foot. 

There were times making the ascent that I had to make a leap of faith. being 5'8 creativity was key in climbing. Where Brian would be able to grab hold of a edge and pull himself up, I had to do a zig zag and leap between boulders to find an easier way up, this made for some interesting climbs and a lot of angry looks from Brian as he watched me do in a quick scramble what took him 10 min to climb over.

Finally we hit the top of the major rock climbs and hit the Table lands where the Abol Trail merged with the Appalachian Trail.

Looking down that long rock pathway it had to be the most dangerous thing I ever attempted. Yet I didn't have a single ounce of fear I will explore that a little more over on my life with a Brain tumor blog www.going-south.org

Part #4 incoming the final climb and the LONG way down.

Going South - The Hardest Part... Part #1

 

Whoever said the "first steps are the hardest ones to take" was a liar...  It's the steps on the last mile of the hunt trail into Katahdin Stream Campground that are the hardest.  More on that later...

After a great nights sleep at The Appalachian Trail Lodge in Millinocket and a hearty Millinocket special at the AT cafe. we set out for Katahdin. We had abnormally good weather for the climb, 72 degrees and sunny with a slight cooling breeze at our backs and no chance of rain. for Maine on June first it does not get any better.

The decision was made to take the shorter Abol Slide Trail up Katadin and then come down the actual Appalachian Trail which is the Hunt Trail.  

Look at me in that picture, 40lbs overweight and full of optimism, wearing a backpack borrowed from the rangers station that had a floral print and the name Mikela stitched into the top of it. I don't know who Mikela is but boy did her pack perform. 

The guide book says this is a nice gentle hike to a stream where you should fill up with water before you reach the main climbing portions.  The person who wrote that has a different definition of easy than I do.. 

I want you to imagine if you will a staircase made for human beings, by a giant with a depth perception problem. This easy trail through the woods was filled with knee high boulders placed haphazardly and laced with tree roots placed strategically behind the boulders to make you fall on your face all going uphill and many times through water. It was at this point 5 min into the hike that I realized being able to walk 14 miles with a 30lb pack on flat land means absolutely nothing when trying to walk 3 1/2 miles with a 10 lbs in little school girls backpack up a steep boulder field.

It probably took me an hour and a half to catch my wind going up this hill, stepping around up and over these rocks sucked the life out of me and tried to break my spirit. My hiking partner and best friend Brian Hackman was a great sport walking far enough ahead to motivate me to catch up but slow enough that I could.  Also at every rest break he would take something out of my pack and put it in his. I cannot thank him enough..

 

We finally hit the fabled water source which came in the form of a gentle mountain spring. I had purchased a SteriPen a few days before my hike and was so glad I did. I could purify a liter of water in 90 seconds where my Aqua mira drops would take upwards of 25 min to sterilize it.  Both of us downed a liter of water on the spot and we refilled with the fresh cool mountain water.  That is an amazing feeling, ice cold water running off a mountain and then running down into a parched throat.  There is nothing I have had that even comes close to being so refreshing. And boy did I need refreshing...

 I thought that first part was exhausting, my lower back hurt my legs had strange cramps, but when I turned around to look where I had come from I saw an amazing sight through a break in the tree line.  A wide expanse of mountains surrounded me on all sides, a wondrous wilderness that reminded me that this is why I was here.  I had to keep going to the top to see even more..