UPDATES from Pam & Ellie on the Appalachian Trail!
(or start from the beginning, here!)

April 7, 2009

Ellie and I arrived home last Wednesday and have been enjoying a bit of rest and trying to figure out why the hot water heater won't stay on! There is at least two feet of snow on the lawn and it is perfect for making snow dogs, snow people, snow cats, snow bunnies, igloos or anything else that comes to mind.

We traveled the Alaska Highway to get back home and saw dozens of buffalo, one coyote that Ellie saw and barked at, several caribou, a few moose, lots of snowbirds, an eagle, ravens, and the usual plentiful squirrels. It took us about a week to travel the five thousand miles to our front door.

I want to thank all of those educators and students who took the initiative of participating in Ellie's Walking Club. There were about a hundred schools involved so many thousands of miles were walked. I am extremely proud of each and every person for participating.

It would be wonderful if schools would send in via email or regular mail the miles walked and who walked the most miles at each grade level. If you could do this by May 15, 2009, that would be perfect.

Ellie and I continue to walk every day and I hope all of you do, too.

Sixfeet - now walking in Alaska

March 10, 2009

Hi Everyone,

We made it! We are here! We are done! We are in the heart of the South and we ain't whistling Dixie! We have finished the Appalachian Trail! When we arrived at the official end, which is on Springer Mountain, there is a plaque on a rock that reads

"Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
Springer Mountain elevation 3782 feet
Southern Terminus"

We met a group of college students on spring break who have volunteered to work on the Trail to maintain it and attend to some shelters. So we all got our pictures taken.

But Ellie and I were not finished. The Visitors Center is located another nine miles down the Trail, where we arrived about 3:00pm. Though we had officially reached the end of the Trail when we were on Springer Mountain, hikers usually finish at the Visitors Center, so we hiked the last nine miles. That part of our day, which was primarily downhill, took about five hours, mostly because I kept stopping to tell everyone that this was our last day!

When we came out onto a parking lot, we still had one mile to go. There were some people there and one of them asked where we had hiked from. So I told them that Ellie and I had hiked from Maine and were finishing today and they all burst into applause. This was very nice and, of course, made Ellie bark. It was a happy moment.

I wanted to finished looking strong and not be emotional, but that didn't happen. When we finally reached the Visitors Center and last parking lot, everything changed. I tossed down my walking stick, dropped to my knees, engulfed Ellie with a big bear hug, and started to cry. I told her I loved her very much and thanked her for staying with me for the entire journey.

We will keep walking everyday and I hope you will too.
Sixfeet

March 6, 2009

Hi Everyone,

We have a problem. It used to be that most days we met one maybe two people a day and had nice long conversations. Now suddenly we are meeting a flood of north-bounders, so Ellie and I stop and stop and stop and talk and talk and talk with just about everyone. The problem is all this talking is slowing us down. I have to admit that having people to talk with after so much time alone means that I am the one doing most of the talking.

So tomorrow I will start trying to be more disciplined. We'll be polite but try to keep it short and keep moving.

The trail along the Tennessee/North Carolina state lines and northern Georgia is more rugged then I thought it would be. There are few flat places and we are almost constantly going up or down. Flat places are almost like getting a rest break, so when we don't find many flat places, we tire quickly like we did in Maine.

It's getting warmer and the ground is thawing, which means the trail is very muddy, so at the end of the day we are muddy. Ack! I keep thinking about the fact that in Alaska, where I come from, March is the best month for dog sledding. The weather forecasters here are threatening us with temperatures in the 70s and 80s over the next few days!

So, if you never hear from us again, it's because Ellie and I melted into a puddle.

Keep walking,
Sixfeet

February 27, 2009

It's cloudy, snowing, and cold a lot lately in the mountains even though we are very far south. (:( But I am hopeful the snow will turn to rain soon as the temperatures moderate. The problem is that, even though we are in the south, we are at altitude, so that is why it's cold. Next day - it's raining! A real toad-strangler and melting the snow, so hiking is easier because the snow made it slippery.

Ellie is doing better at staying close to me and spends more time off leash during the day. She is really growing up and likely weighs about 70-75 pounds! Yikes! It's like getting two dogs in one.

We met two more thru-hikers a few days ago but now we meet no one except a few day-hikers so I guess the initial parade of determined, early-bird, thru-hikers is over. In a few days a new group will start passing by. I met local day-hiker today who told me lots of people have already started out of Georgia, so we will once again be meeting thru-hikers.

I have to admit the land here is more rugged then I anticipated, so we try to hike a bit longer each day to keep our miles up. We are tired, but Georgia is getting closer.

Keep walking,
Sixfeet

February 17, 2009

Hi Everyone,

Ellie and I got back on the trail Thursday and are doing fine. We passed a sign Friday that said we had 371 miles to go! I was sure we had more miles then that, so this is a nice surprise. Ellie seems a bit more lively now and I think a few days off the trail was good for both of us.

We are traveling along the state line of North Carolina and Tennessee and move unknowingly between those two states because the trail sometimes runs right along the border. We are about 13 miles south of Elk Park, NC.

The mountains here are very rugged and the views are beautiful. Happily, the trail is not too difficult. We came across some barren mountain tops called balds. I once read that these were areas cleared by farmers because they were the only place in the mountains that was flat. But these areas are so windy and dry that I don't see how anything could grow there. Also, they are surrounded by very stubby trees.

The most exciting event came on Friday when we encountered a man named Karl who was the first thru-hiker we have met this year. He is hiking south to north. Likely, we will start meeting others as the days go by.

Keep walking!
Sixfeet

February 7, 2009

Hi Everyone,

Ellie and I are getting off the Appalachian Trail for a little bit to take care of some business and to let my bruised right foot rest & heal up.

We will be back in a very few days, so please keep walking!

Six Feet

January 30, 2009

Hi Everyone,

Ellie and I are in Damascus, so we will make it out of Virginia before the day is over! Just three more states and we will be finished.

Ellie is being a real trooper and hikes even in the heavy rain but she doesn't really like it. Neither do I but it's part of the game out here.

We are hiking through some beautiful country where the rhododendrons(sp?) are way over my head and often fold over the trail to form a green tunnel. Amazingly, these tough plants manage to keep their leaves seemingly no matter how cold it gets.

I would love to see the trail when there are leaves on other trees in this part of the country. An amazing number of creeks are low on water or dry so I assume this may mean drought in this area this coming summer.

We came upon a deer carcass just off the trail two days ago and, of course, Ellie needed to wander over and check it out. It was not all that old and I think was a bear's stash so, sadly for her, Ellie was not allowed to get an unexpected feast. Besides, the bear could have been napping close by.

Some distance down the trail she suddenly stopped, looked into the forest behind us and gave her low, defensive bark. I'll never know, but I wonder if she heard the bear come back for a snack. We were not about to investigate.

The final portion of the trail into Damascus is sort of sidewalk, flat, level, straight, and no tree roots or rocks to trip over.

Sixfeet.

January 20, 2009

Hi Everyone,

The numbers for northbound thru-hikers trekking from Georgia to Maine for this past season are as follows:

1250 people left Georgia as delcared thru-hikers sometime during 2008 heading north
1150 remained after the first major drop-out point of Neels Gap
667 remained at the half-way point
148 finished the entire trail south to north.

I don't know what the numbers are for southbound hikers since some of us are still hiking, but they will be far smaller at every point because far fewer people hike south then hike north. Usually, for every ten people hiking north Maine, only one will be hiking south to Georgia.

Likely Ellie and I are the last south-bounders on the trail, so when we finish, I should be able to get southbound numbers.

It's been very cold here in southwestern Virginia, not too far from Bland and Wytheville, where several days the temperatures have gone close to zero. Up in the mountains where the trail is located, it has been below zero in the early morning but usually has risen to at least 28-34 degrees during the day. That's not bad unless the wind starts blowing. Usually the forest gives us some shelter, but even there we often still feel the effects of the wind.

The trail is a bit hillier here then in northern and central Virginia but still fairly easy. Some places are rockier then expected.

We had one bad scare when we came to Dismal Falls on Dismall Creek, which at the falls looks more like a small river then a creek. The falls were partly frozen and the edges of the creek were frozen to about five feet out from the shore.

I had turned Ellie loose to run around since no one was there.

She decided to walk out on the ice, which was thin with fast flowing water underneath. Suddenly, I heard a big crack, then a splash. I turned to see Ellie desperately clinging to the surface ice by her front legs trying to claw her way out.

She kept breaking through the ice as I kept trying to reach her. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion and it looked as though she was going to be swept away, when suddenly her front claws gained traction on the ice and she got herself out.

She simply shook herself off and went on checking out the area as though nothing had happened. Dogs are very tough.

As planned, today, January 20, 2009, Ellie and I are staying at a motel in southwestern Virginia to watch the televised inauguration of Barack Obama. It's a very exciting day as we show ourselves and the world the kind of nation we are capable of being.

Keep walking (but not on thin ice),

Sixfeet

January 9, 2009

Hi Everyone,

Ellie and I have gotten through Shenandoah National Park, which was a fairly busy place during the holiday season. We passed lots of hikers each day which was a pleasant surprise. The trail in Shenandoah was mixed, some very flat and wide, some rocky and following narrow ledges along mountainsides. Overall, it was easy to make good time.

At shelters there were frequent mentions of bear encounters, but we saw no wildlife other then several blackcap chickadees, a lot of deer and the usual plentiful supply of squirrels. It always amazes me how many squirrels the forest can support.

We left the park and continued along the trail through the Blue Ridge Parkway, which begins immediately south of Shenandoah National Park. The views have been spectacular, especially since all the leaves are gone, which allows us to see long distances into far off valleys. One day I counted eight ridges in the distance.

The temperatures vary a lot. Often it's below freezing in the morning but warms up into the 50s by mid-day. Much more pleasant then back in my home state of Alaska where it was -37 degrees yesterday!

But yesterday our start was delayed because of a three-hour blizzard! Thick flakes of snow fell fast and the wind blew most of it sideways, creating a very cold and unpleasant environment. Then, as quickly as it came, the storm stopped, clouds gave way to a clear blue sky, temperatures soared to 45, snow began to melt and, most amazing of all, about six or seven other day hikers appeared within minutes slogging along the trail.

We will finish the Blue Ridge Parkway in a few days but we still will not be out of Virginia! On and on it goes. I think we are less likely to suffer from the Virginia Blues because we are southbound and know we are well over half way through. If we were northbound and still had a huge amount of the trail left to hike, it would be easy to get a little down.

Keep walking - everyday - just like
Sixfeet

December 28, 2008

Hi Everyone,

I hope everyone had as wonderful a holiday as Ellie and I. There is so much to celebrate and be happy about.

We have now traveled roughly 1175 miles and have just under 1000 miles to go! This is a huge source of motivation for me since we are now well over half way through our journey and the number of miles we have to go will never be expressed by four digits again.

One day we walked four miles along the streets of Harper's Ferry, WV and by doing so ticked off another state! Maryland was pretty scary because we had quite a few problems with hunters, but that is behind us now.

Ellie and I walked seven miles on the morning of December 23 which took us into a little bit of Shenandoah National Park and then we got off the Trail for Christmas. We went to Washington DC where I spent Christmas with my friends Jon and Carol.

But, Ellie had an even more special Christmas. She spent her time across the street from where I stayed with Samantha and Chuck who have two dogs about Ellie's size. Every day we all went to Dog Hill where the dogs were turned loose to play for an hour with about five other dogs who also visited daily. To have other dogs to play with was a wonderful treat for Ellie and to see her run free was the best Christmas gift I could have had. During the rest of each day she still had her hosts' two other dogs to play with and a big, fenced in back yard to run in. This was dog-heaven for Ellie.

During the afternoon of December 27 Ellie and I reluctantly left Washington and drove west where we entered Shenandoah National Park and resumed our journey south.

We have completed ten states and have only four left. Since Virginia has the most miles of any state, we will be hiking here for about a month and will strive to avoid the 'Virginia Blues,' an affliction that strikes many thru-hikers because they feel as though they walk forever without getting out of the state.

Keep walking everyday! Don't give up rain or shine.

Sixfeet

December 15, 2008

Hi Everyone,

Ellie and I are officially over half way through our hike. I know this because we came to a tall sign along the trail that said this is the half way point. Actually, because the trail has gotten a few miles longer since the sign was erected, the half way point is a tad bit south but I took our picture in front of it anyway.

Right now we are just inside Maryland, having completed Pennsylvania much faster than I expected. The trails in Pennsylvania were much better and less rocky than expected. Since we have great trail-legs now, we have been able to hike many miles each day. Our best so far is seventeen miles in a single day!

When the big storm that struck New England went through, Ellie and I got a room to wait it out. I chose to do this because first it rained and rained and rained extremely hard and soaked everything. Then the temperature dropped and everything froze. Since that made the trail a sheet of ice and difficult to walk on and we could not travel safely in such conditions, it made sense to dry out and stay warm. It was nice to get a long hot shower and sleep in a normal bed and Ellie enjoyed sleeping on a nice carpeted floor.

Hunting season continues to make our safety an issue. For awhile I thought we should just leave the trail until the season was over. I thought it ended December 15 but it turns out hunting season goes on in the upcoming states until the first week of January. So we will continue our hike for a few days more, dressed in orange and red, and see how it goes. No matter what, we will leave the trail for a few days around Christmas before resuming our trek to Georgia.

Sixfeet

December 2, 2008

Hi,

Rocksylvania usually appears on maps as Pennsylvania, a fact most thru-hikers know. We never mention this error to people in Pennsylvania, but we know they know.

Actually, the threat of terrible rocks has proven to be not nearly so bad as predicted. So far the state is a series of reasonably flat mountain ridges with soft trails interrupted by patches of rock. Granted the rocks are sharp and sometimes large and often plentiful, but we just slow down a bit to save my ankles until we get to better tread.

The ridges are broken by gaps, which are big "V" shaped openings in the ridges. Usually roads and/or rivers flow through the gaps, sometimes requiring us to walk across the road or walk over some long vehicle bridges with pedestrian walkways.

There are some walkways that cross roads that are only pedestrian walkways, the most famous is the Million Dollar Footbridge that crosses Harrisburg Pike.

The most difficult gap was Lehigh Gap, a challenging 1000 feet of steep boulders which left Ellie puzzled as to how to move forward. At the top she was confronted with boulders piled every which way that were far higher then she is.

We worked out a system together that required her to trust me. I would stand on top of a boulder and gently tug on her leash in the direction she should move. Then I let the leash hang limp so Ellie could have a self-controlled jump and she would leap to the next boulder. Then I would command her to stay and she would wait motionless until I got in position for the next move. We completed Lehigh Gap with no mishaps, though I think Ellie's toenails are a bit shorter now.

For the last two weeks it's been bear hunting season. Ellie's red pack makes her very visible and I have a brilliant orange pack cover that makes me almost glow in the dark. With the end of bear season came the immediate beginning of deer season on December 1 where upon an estimated 900,000 people entered the forests of Rocksylvania in pursuit of a deer!

Our colorful attire has kept us safe and no hunting is allowed within 150 yards of the Appalachian Trail. However, I spoke with two wildlife officers patrolling the trail who told me they do not enforce this rule and that there was a hunter in a tree right beside the trail a short distance from where we stood. Between that bit of startling news and a rather dense mountain fog, I decided Ellie and I would take a rest day and let the frenzy die down a bit. But we will be sure to wear our colorful attire until the season ends, just to be safe.

Thanksgiving happened during all this excitement. For Ellie and me it was just another day on the trail, but I was surprised and pleased to see an amazing number of individuals, families and other groups who make it a tradition to do a short hike on Thanksgiving. Not a bad idea.

Sixfeet

November 21, 2008

Hi Everyone,

We have made it to Pennsylvania! We are in the small community of Delaware Water Gap where the trail winds through the edge of town. There along the route was a hair salon called Bo Tangles. They were able to take me right in, quickly cut my scraggly hair, and send me right back out to continue to the Post Office where I picked up my latest mailing. We hardly missed a stride as we completed our errands in this very friendly, relaxed town.

Hiking through High Point State Park and Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area before we reached here was almost like walking through a city park, the trails were so good. Parks are known for having better trails and these were no exception. Some were even old logging roads. It was quite cold, getting to 22 degrees at night and only up to 36 during the day. Only one day was windy, so it wasn't as bad as it sounds. The snow that fell over two nights always melted by noon each day.

There were lots of deer and squirrels, which Ellie dearly wanted to chase, but she is on a leash to prevent her from getting into trouble. A man showed up with his black lab where we were camped, so we turned the dogs loose and they played happily together for about an hour before the man left. It was a real treat for Ellie, and it was great to watch her run off some energy and spend time with another dog.

So now I get to see if the infamous rocks of Pennsylvania are as bad as they are reported to be.

Keep walking - we are.
Sixfeet

November 14, 2008

Hi Everyone,

Good news! We are now trekking in New York State and are very close to a small town called Fort Montgomery, so we now have five states behind us.

Rain and ticks. That's what hiking is about these past few days. At least it's rain and not snow again. The water and mild temperatures bring out a massive number of ticks, particularly in Connecticut. Ticks are tiny bugs that can carry disease so I have to check Ellie frequently throughout the day to get them off of her before they get embedded into her skin.

Despite the fact that she gets a monthly dose of medication that is supposed to keep the ticks away, one day I pulled over 40 of the little beasties out of her coat. So I went to a grocery store and bought a good old flea and tick collar and that seems to work much better.

Since I'm not covered in hair, it's easy to know when I get a tick on me. I feel a little sensation like when a mosquito lands on your skin and check right away. So far I have found very few ticks on me and it has been easy to dispose of those few that have made it onto my skin.

The trail continues to be very level and we hike about two miles per hour, sometimes a bit faster.

Think NO SNOW in New York and keep walking!

Sixfeet

November 6, 2008

Ellie and I are moving along very well and are near Cornwall Bridge, CT. We are celebrating the fact that we have traveled somewhere around 750 miles, completed four states and are working on the fifth.

Lately, some days we have covered over 15 miles in a day! This is a function of more level trails and the fact that my back is slowly, steadily healing. So, if you take out the zero days (days when we don't travel, either because we are taking a rest day or the weather is too nasty), we are now averaging overall about 12 miles a day since the beginning of our journey. I think we will steadily increase as we head south.

A few days ago there was a nasty storm that dumped a beautiful layer of snow in the mountains and winds were really high. Things were pretty exciting in the tent that night but we suffered no catastrophes and the trees that blew down thankfully missed us. The only difficulty for awhile was the large amount of water and mud on the trail after the storm.

The snow mostly melted over a few days and the trail is drying up nicely. There is no snow in Connecticut, even in the mountains. The sun has been shining again lately and so our spirits have risen along with the temperature.

One thing I've noticed lately is that we cross roads very often and see many more vehicles. It is odd to be walking through the forest, thinking you are in the wilderness, happily lost in your thoughts and then suddenly there is a road with cars whizzing past. But once we've cross the road, it's amazingly easy to get back into a place in my mind where I can let my thoughts be free or very focused, whatever I feel like doing. That's the best part of being out here.

I expect to continue to gradually increase our daily mileage over the next month but then we may slow down a bit when we get into Pennsylvania where there are lots of rocky trails that are hard to walk over. It's wonderful to be able to spend all day walking in the forest with my little, four-legged friend. Of course Ellie is used to going for day long walks so I'm not sure what that means when we get home!

That's it for now. Please keep walking! Knowing kids are walking too is what makes this worthwhile and it's one of the things I think about while hiking.

Sixfeet

 

October 27, 2008

Hi Everyone,

A lot has happened since the last update. Ellie and I spent a perfect day and night at my friends' house - Joy and Michael in Lebanon, NH - before heading into Vermont. We were picked from the trail, I got a much needed shower, did laundry during the afternoon and even watched a little TV. When Joy and Michael arrived home from work we had a perfect dinner and conversation that involved sounds other then bark, bark, and ruff, ruff. Later I got to sleep in a real bed, enjoyed a perfect breakfast, and then we were transported back to the trail.

For the most part the trail has gotten much easier in that there are fewer steep hills to climb and the tree roots don't stick up so much.

We did come across some really steep tallus - that's desk sized jagged rocks piled on top of one another rising steeply up the side of a mountain - and we had to descend this in a steady downpour. Ellie has learned to stop and wait or me to climb down three or four steps and then follow me down, stop and wait and repeat the process all the way to the bottom. It makes it much safer since that way we don't end up trying to step on the same foothold at the same time.

On October 23 Mother Nature opened the door and Old Man Winter sauntered in and dumped wet, sticky snow all over the place and let all the heat out. Yuck! The trail is sticky with mud, fallen leaves, and snow and most mornings we wake up to temperatures in the teens and twenties.

The forest is sometimes far less dense then in Maine and it is a pleasure to be able to see into it.
The leaves are almost completely off the trees giving the forest a beautiful, slender, lean look.

Yesterday we may have come across a bear. I saw nothing but Ellie stopped in her track, raised her hackles, threw her nose in the air and began sniffing. Then she barked furiously and kept wanting to back up. She would not exhibit that behavior if it were an approaching dog or person. Only Ellie knows.

That's it for now. Keep walking for Ellie's Walking Club. It helps inspire me to know kids are walking too, and I need all the inspiration I can get!

Sixfeet

October 13, 2008

Hi Everyone,

We have made it to Hanover, New Hampshire which is right on the Vermont/New Hampshire state line. This means we have traveled about 442 miles so just about 20% of our journey is complete AND two states are behind us.

Much has happened since the last update. Ellie and I left Pinkham Visitor Center on a day the weather deteriorated - again. Our route should have taken us into mountainous terrain above tree-line but the wind up high was 40-60mph, the rock was covered with slick, frozen fog and snow was forecasted. Travel was not advised.

There is a plaque on top of Mount Washington, the highest of those mountains, which lists the names of the 140 people known to have died on or near the mountain. Not wanting to be number 141, I chose a different route. Ellie and I hiked up Tuckerman Ravine Trail, which is the designated bad-weather route.

This was fine until we reached the ridge where we had to climb above tree-line. The change in weather was sudden and dramatic. The wind was fierce, hail pelted us, and footing was extremely treacherous. Still not wanting to be number 141, we turned back and climbed down just a few yards to where the weather was calm and camped for the night.

The next morning was spectacular. Though still a bit windy the weather was warm and sunny. We traveled with minimal gear and supplies, quickly crossing the next 11 miles of rugged, mountainous, landscape in a day and a half.

The weather continued to be nice but cool at night, often dropping below freezing. It's hard to climb out of the sleeping bag when you know your fingers are going to hurt from the cold, but that's what you have to do. You have to promise yourself that you will get up at a certain time and then stay motivated and not let yourself down. Each cold morning when I got up stiff and cold, it always surprised me at how much easier then expected it was to get up and start my day. I just didn't think about how cold it was and I always felt good about myself for not wimping out.

The mountains did have one final (I hope) big challenge for Ellie and me, and that was Mount Moosilauke where we had to climb almost straight up 2000 feet in less than a mile. There were steps of wooden 4X4s, steps of rocks, sometimes no steps, just roots to grab hold of to pull yourself up, irons embedded in rocks to hang onto, slabs of rock to gingerly cross, and lots of mud to slip around on. For me it was exhausting, for Ellie it was just another day of fun on the trail.

Along this entire climb a beautiful waterfall cascaded just a few feet to our right. Ellie decided she was thirsty and started walking over to get a drink. This would have resulted in her certain death. I screamed her name and yelled at her to come. My tone startled her and thankfully she came back to me.

As predicted by people I have met going north, once we got south of Glencliff, NH, the trail became much more flat with fewer tree roots jutting up and far less rocky.

Now we head for Vermont and see what the trail has to show us over there.

More later, Sixfeet

October 2, 2008

Hi Everyone,

Time to celebrate again! We are at Pinkham Visitor Center 21 miles south along the Appalachian Trail and the dreaded Wildcat Ridge is now behind us. We are soaked and exhausted but we're here.

This section of the trail started with a deceptively easy gentle rise for two miles on a wide soft trail and progress was swift. Then it rose steeply for two miles. That's when the rain started, showers first, then almost a constant downpour. We had on our raingear but the rain slowly found it's way into everything and by evening we and our gear were soaked. We had passed only two hikers all day.

Camping was difficult because the ground was uneven, saturated, puddles everywhere, it got pretty cool, and rain fell hard all night.

We signed the trail register at Carter Notch Hut the next day, noting our itinerary, and set out for Wildcat Ridge. There are five peaks along this stretch, all over four thousand feet. They are cleverly named Peak A, B, C, D, and E. To reach Peak A, we slogged up through a soggy, steep, rocky trail that rose 1000 feet in less then a mile.

At the summit we encountered gusts over 25 mph, causing the rain to seep further into my clothing and coating my glasses with mist. Ellie was thrilled to be on top and started heading downhill. Over the next few miles we went up and down, up and down, up and down. Thankfully, peaks B, C, D, and E were not nearly so difficult.

I was concerned about how wet and cold we were getting because the most difficult part of all lay ahead. From the summit of Peak E over the next two miles we had to drop steeply 2500 feet, which means pretty much straight down. The rain was torrential, the wind was gusting, Ellie and I were both tired.

The trail was now a narrow six-inch deep trough of water sweeping mud, gravel, and rocks along making footing very treacherous. We slipped, skidded, and slid downward.

Ellie was incredible. I could see she was cold and wet. Twice she stopped and looked at me as if to ask, "Can we find someplace else to go where it's easier?"

I just said, "Let's go, Ellie," and off she would go. She inspired me.

I wanted to stop too but the thick, stubby, evergreen forest that lines the trail is so dense it's nearly impossible to enter, and of course camping on a rocky 45 degree incline is pretty tough.

So we persisted. At long last we reached level ground and continued along the final two miles. Every stream crossing was at flood stage and every bridge was either under water or wrecked. We carefully crossed and kept walking until at last we emerged on Highway 16, crossed the road and reached safety. We passed no one all day long.

Wildcat Ridge is considered by many to be the most difficult part of the entire Appalachian Trail. I really hope that's true. So far it is.

More later, Six Feet

September 29, 2008

Hi Everyone,

Ellie and I have arrived in Gorham, New Hampshire, having trekked about 298 miles of our journey. It also means we have finally completed our first state and Maine is now behind us!

The famous Mahoosuc Notch was more fun and less terrifying then I had been led to believe. In the Notch lay huge, angled slabs of rock, often bigger then cars that you have to negotiate. They sometimes form passage ways and you have to crawl through these tunnels on your hand and knees. I decided to look at it as fun and thoroughly enjoyed the three hours it took to scramble over, under, and around the boulders.

We had good weather for awhile but then a hurricane went up the coast of Maine and dropped enough rain to cause the weather people to warn of flash flooding. Heavy rain can cause substantial amounts of water to overflow stream beds, making it treacherous to cross and torrents of water can accumulate with shocking speed and rush down the trail, sweeping everything away.

This was not nearly so scary as the day I saw a wolf walking along about 100 yards behind us on a wide stretch of trail. Ellie was running free and I am sure it was stalking her. Since it was so far away and Ellie was busy sniffing a nearby log, she never saw the wolf. When I saw it, the wolf stopped and turned so its left side was toward us. I took two steps towards the wolf and it quickly disappeared into the forest. I kept Ellie on a leash for some time after that.

Later I would learn that another dog disappeared in that same area about two weeks ago, though I have no way of knowing if this wolf was in any way connected with that dog's disappearance.

The leaves are brilliant red, yellow, and orange and just when I think they couldn't possible turn any brighter, the next morning they do.

This week we start hiking through portions of the White Mountains which promises to be one of the most challenging parts of the journey because the mountains are very steep and high.

More later, Six Feet

September 22, 2008

Hi Everyone,

Ellie and I are in Andover, Maine now, having completed about 249 miles of the Appalachian Trail. We are still averaging about 10 miles a day, which is not bad considering how much serious up and down there is in Maine. Overall, Maine is considered to be the most difficult state along the Appalachian Trail.

The weather continues to be spectacular and we celebrate this good fortune every day. The leaves are beginning to turn colors now, mostly gold, yellow, and red and I am looking forward to hiking through some colorful country over the next couple of weeks.

Twice since we started I've hurt my back carrying a backpack through rough terrain so because of that I have had to make some adjustments to how we are doing this journey, at least temporarily.

Instead of carrying all the weight through the entire distance from one town to the next, I have made arrangements at places where the trail and roads intersect to access our food. This really reduces the weight I carry since food is a big part of the total pack weight.

I am going to keep doing this until we are out of steep terrain and my back feels better. It's not something I wanted to do but sometimes you just have to accept change in order to accomplish a goal.

Though most thru-hikers carry all of their pack, the system of having some weight shuttled is fairly common. There are even a surprising number of people hiking the trail who carry almost no weight and frequently get shuttled to hostels at night and then back to the trail in the morning. This is a service provided by many hostels that cater to hikers and is referred to as "slack packing".

Ellie has become a very good trail dog and, though she is still very happy when we meet another person, she has learned to stay much calmer than before. Now we are working on her not going ballistic when we meet another dog on the trail.

One day we came to a place where a narrow, dirt, logging road crossed the trail and there hanging in a tree was a large, black plastic bag. Ellie saw it, raised her hackles, and barked at it furiously as she slinked around it. Turned out a man had driven to this spot and hung his own food resupply. We met him about two miles later walking north as we walked south. He said he had done this food-hanging quite a bit and no one ever bothered it. People know someone is depending on it. He thought it was pretty funny that Ellie had barked at his food bag.

More later, Six Feet

September 14, 2008

Hi Everyone,

Ellie and I are in Stratton, Maine which is about 185 miles from Katahdin. We continue to have good fortune. The many rivers and streams that we had to cross (there are 56 waterways in Maine that require crossing) are usually about two feet deep, some with swift current and something to be reckoned with, but because there has been so little rain all the waterways were no deeper then 6-10 inches. Whew! I've been very concerned about them and am relieved to have most of the waterways behind us. Ellie has become a champion waterway crosser!

It's raining today and we are resting. My feet now look much more like feet instead of two loaves of bread and they hurt a lot less. Ellie ate part of a bog one day which gave her an intestinal infection called giarrdiosis from an organism called giarrdia. She is getting medication for this and is responding very nicely and feeling much better then she did a few days ago.

Most of these bogs are thick layers of moss on top of thick one to two feet of mud and apparently smell pretty good to a dog. The problem is that the mud can be sitting on two to four feet of water that you cannot see. The bogs are crossed by walking over split log walkways about six to twelve inches wide. One day Ellie fell off the log and into the bog and sank to her belly, unable to extract herself. I managed to haul her out and had the joy of walking with a very stinky dog for the rest of the day.

Then it was my turn to fall in, but only my left leg went in just past my knee. Thankfully, I was able to drop to my right knee on the log, grab the log with both hands and get my leg out of the bog. I tested the depth with my walking stick but was unable to find the bottom of that particular spot. I heard about one man who fell in completely and was saved by his pack getting hung up on the log. After he got out, he decided to leave the Appalachian Trail.

We have the famous last few miles of the trail in Maine yet to cross and we will do this only when it is not raining. If we try to cross the next section in rain the rocks get too slick and people get hurt a lot. So Ellie and I will take out time, not get hurt, and enjoy this journey.

I hope you all are walking. One of the reasons I am doing this trek during this time of year is to include as many students as possible. Keep walking.

Ellie and Pam - aka Six Feet

September 4, 2008:

Hi Everyone,
Here's the latest from Pam and Ellie on the Appalachian Trail. First, we are in Monson, Maine at the end of the 100-mile Wilderness. This means we have completed a total of about 116 or so miles of the Appalachian Trail.

We entered the Wilderness August 26 after climbing Katahdin and hiking to Abol Bridge. The Wilderness terrain is filled with rocks, mud, and endless tree roots, for which the Maine portion of the Trail is known. On the afternoon of August 27 I managed to mis-step on a tree root and turn my left ankle inward 90 degrees and have been hobbling along ever since. But - no pain, no gain. I wonder who thought up that expression?

One morning Ellie and I started out first from a campsite and down the trail towards us lumbered a mother black bear and her cub. I think they saw us before we saw them and they charged off into the forest. The cub climbed a tree while the mother peered through the thick, dense brush and watched us from a distance of about 100 feet. I had my bear spray out and was shaking pretty badly from fear but the cub dropped down and they both headed off into the forest. The next hiker behind me a distance heard the cub bawling in the tree but did not see them. Ellie was remarkably well behaved and stood on the trail barking.

The rest of our days were spent climbing up and down steep mountains, walking over split log walk ways that shelter delicate bogs, wading through mud where there are no walk ways, stumbling over tree roots and enjoying unbelievably beautiful weather.

We are staying in Monson for a few days until I get the swelling in my feet under control. It's very difficult to be disciplined about resting because the weather is so perfect. But it's better to rest now then carry on with bad feet.

Part of the A.T. experience is to select a trail name. So Ellie and I are known as Six Feet, because Ellie has four feet and I have two.

Next update in a week or so. Remember to keep walking!   --   Six Feet


August 24, 2008:

There is much to celebrate! Ellie & I traveled in my van 5917 miles from Alaska to Maine, detouring to visit three schools in TN along the way.

At 6:30 am 8/24/2008 I started hiking towards Mt. Katahdin with two friends, Dorothy Hall-Riddle & Tracy Weber. We hiked together for several miles and then Dorothy & Tracy turned back to deliver my camp equipment to where I would spend the night. Dorothy's husband, Jeff Riddle, arranged for me to get a much coveted campsite in Baxter [State] Park.

I continued towards the summit of Mt. Katahdin, which is 5280' Baxter Peak and is the northern terminus of the A.T. There were a lot of roots and rocks and bouldering and my legs got pretty tired. In several places, you have to grab hold of iron handles imbedded in rock to get over some huge boulders. The entire 11.7 miles of hiking was mostly very strenuous and it took me a respectable 10.5 hours to complete. The weather was spectacular, blue sky, breezy, moderate temperatures in the 60s. Climbing this mountain means that I have completed one of the most difficult parts of the entire A.T.

Tomorrow I hike out of Baxter State Park and Ellie will join me to begin the rest of the hike. Dogs are not allowed in Baxter State Park, so Ellie has been cared for by Barbara Hall and her friend Everett Parker who will deliver her to me.

It's a good beginning and such good fortune is to be celebrated. I'll send updates whenever I get into a town and can send an email. Next Ellie and I will hike the "100 mile wilderness" to Monson, Maine.

I hope many of you reading this will participate in my journey by joining Ellie's Walking Club and walk as many miles as you can.

More as soon as I can.  -- Pam


 

 

 

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