Lake Erie

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Over this past winter Jodi and I bandied about several ideas for this year’s bicycle tour, eventually settling on either cycling part of the new Sierra-Cascade Route, or cycling part of the Great Parks North route starting in the Canadian Rockies. But the airlines have gone to new heights of preposterousness when it comes to carrying bicycles, charging up to $200 per bicycle each way. Forking over $800 simply to bring our bicycles with us is just too much to swallow, so we changed tack and decided to come up with a totally new plan.

Some of you may recall that we cycled around Lake Ontario some years ago ( We had a good time on that trip, so we decided to cycle another of the Great Lakes, Lake Erie. Our original intent was to take Amtrak from Boston to either Buffalo or Cleveland. As it turns out, the downtown Buffalo Amtrak station does not have luggage service, so we would have to get off in one of the eastern suburbs. Also, the schedule is not very convenient, leaving Boston at noon and arriving in Buffalo at midnight and in Cleveland at 3:30AM. I really don’t want to be wandering around a strange city in the middle of the night to start my vacation.

So now we are planning to drive out for this trip. Right now we are working out the logistics of a safe place to leave the car for a couple of weeks. Te other big hurdle is our passports. Both of our passports expired this year, so we sent in the renewal applications about 3 1/2 weeks ago, thinking that was plenty of time. Well, apparently since 9/11 passports are no longer processed in two weeks, but in 4 – 6 weeks. I’m not sure why it takes a month to a month and a half to renew an existing passport, but who knows, maybe they are sending agents out to interview all of our friends and acquaintances. Have any of you gotten a knock at the door? In any case, next Wednesday will mark four weeks since they received our applications, so hopefully they will be arriving in the mail soon. If they do, we are hoping to be off next weekend. If not, we’ll have to postpone until our passports finally do arrive.

It looks like we are going to be starting in Erie, Pennsylvania, and cycling west along the south shore of Lake Erie. Many people riding the Lake cross to Canada using a ferry from Sandusky, Ohio. They make this choice because while there are a number of bridges and tunnels that cross the Detroit River from Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, none of them allow bicycle or pedestrian access. But the idea of riding around Lake Erie, but skipping the western end of the lake, just seems wrong to us, so we are most likely going to continue through Detroit, up the Detroit River, along the western shore of Lake St Clair, and on up the St Clair River to Marine City, Michigan, where there is a ferry across to Sombra, Ontario. From here we’ll cycle back down to the north shore of Lake Erie, and continue eastward until we cross the Peace Bridge into Buffalo, New York, then swing west again to get back to Erie.I haven’t worked out the exact mileage yet, but I think it’s going to be about 750 miles, so a comfortable 2 weeks or maybe a bit more.

Mount Washington Road Race

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I ran — well, okay, I mostly walked, but I walked as fast as I could — the Mount Washington Road Race yesterday morning. It was a gorgeous day, but quite hot. In fact, it was very hot for June in the White Mountains. In spite of the heat, it was a awesome event. Yes, it’s a bit crazy to want to run up a mountain, but crazy is sometimes fun.

Though I had no real idea of what I would or should be able to do on a run like this, I had harbored hopes of making the run — 7.6 miles and 4,360 feet of elevation gain — in under 2 hours. Well, by the first mile marker I knew with a certainty that wasn’t going to happen. I started thinking 2:15 – 2:20 would be good. Okay, I could live with that. I ended up running much less of the hill than I had expected. I think I probably ran about 10% of the time, which would be somewhat more than 10% of the distance. The rest of the time I, and most of the people around me, simply walked uphill as fast as we could. My final time ended up being 2:05:35 gun time, and 2:04:58 watch time. There was no starting mat for chip timing, so the 37 second difference is the time it took me to get to the starting line once the gun fired and the race started.

So, I set a whole bunch of personal records. The slowest mile I ever ran. The slowest 5k I ever ran. The slowest 5 miles I ever ran, etc. But it was also the fastest I have ever climbed 4,360 feet. And I managed to get a sunburn as well! What more can one ask for?

Below are some stats from my Garmin Forerunner. The elevation profile shows the elevation as recorded by my watch, and GPS altitude measurements aren’t all that precise, so the total elevation gain is exaggerated a bit. Still, it proves the tag-line for this event, “There’s Only One Hill!”

For now on, whenever a race throws a tough hill at me, I can simply tell myself, “Well, it’s not like running Mount Washington!”

Jodi and I are at the Eagle Mountain House in Jackson, New Hampshire
tonight. This is the host hotel for the Mount Washington Road Race,
which goes off at 10:00AM tomorrow morning. There are a lot of people
here who take their mountain running very seriously. Needless to say,
people who specialize in going uphill very fast tend not to have a lot
of excess mas on their bodies. This is like a skinny convention!

I used to be skinny. Heck, I was skinny just last year. But I most
definitely am not skinny now. I am going to wish I were 20 pounds
lighter as soon as I hit the bottom of the downhill at mile 0.5 and
the world turns decidedly vertical for the next 7.1 miles. The good
thing about being so woefully unprepared for this run (in my case, I
won’t even call it a race), is that I have absolutely no expectation
of performance, so I am not in the least anxious about it. I’ll get up
in the morning, eat a good breakfast, go wait around for the run to
start while Jodi drives up to the summit, and suffer for a couple of
hours until it’s over. Once I’ve made it to the summit, I will be able
to wear my Mt. Washington Road Race shirt and cap with pride.

Oh, and tomorrow night I can indulge in an ice cold martini with
dinner. I was smart enough to avoid imbibing tonight.

Till tomorrow…

Race To The Clouds


I got a number for the Mount Washington Road Race — the Race To The Clouds — on June 19 this year! 7.6 miles with 4650 feet of vertical rise. I’ve been entering the lottery for this event every year for several years, and never got a number until now. The course description says the road has “an average grade of 11.5% with extended sections of 18%, and the last 50 yards is a 22% “wall” to the finish.”

This is gonna be awesome!

Now I just have to get my lard ass in shape…


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Spring arrived today, and a glorious spring day it was!

Last year I greeted spring while hiking in the Blood Mountain Wilderness in Georgia. Today I greeted it while cycling through the Blue Hills in Massachusetts with Jodi. It was a glorious spring day with sunshine and temps of 70 degrees, very unusual weather for March in New England.

Being awfully early in the season, and not having cycled at all last year since I spent the summer hiking, I labored on the hills today. But we are determined to whip ourselves back into cycling shape this year and are determined to do a challenging bike tour this summer. We aren’t quite sure where yet and are still discussing options. The one we are currently exploring is to tour some of the parks in the Canadian Rockies.It always feels good to have a physically challenging adventure to work towards and look forward to.

Tomorrow our weather will be back to normal; gray and damp with temperatures in the 40s. But you can’t fool me; spring is here and I know it!


One Year Ago Today

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Stover Creek Shelter
Wednesday 3/18
AT Miles = 2.8
Other Miles = 8.8
Total Miles = 11.6

Today was a perfect day to start a thru-hike. After days and days of rain, today was warm and sunny with a bit of haze. After a hearty breakfast at the Hikers Hostel in Dahlonega, six hikers piled into the truck to be shuttled to the trail. Only two of us had chosen to hike the Approach Trail from Amicalola Falls State Park. The trail starts at the stone arch behind the Visitors Center, then follows the paved trail up along the falls, which includes seven hundred and something stairs. Whew!

After I got out of the state park the trail turned quiet and lovely. It is quite different than New England, which I think of as mud, roots, and rocks. Here the trail was dry and smooth for easy walking. It was only the elevation gain that made the hiking hard.

I left Amicalola Falls at about 10:20 and arrived at the summit of Springer Mountrain at 1:50, much faster than I expected. I hadn’t yet picked a final goal for the day. I could have stopped at the Springer Mountrain Shelter just 0.2 miles from the summit, but with about 6 hours of daylight left it seemed that pushing on a little further made sense, so I continued on the 2.8 miles to here, Stover Creek Shelter.

It’s about 6:30 now. We’ve got blue skies and a gentle breeze, and the evening is starting to cool off. My hammock is hung out behind the shelter, and I think it is going to be wonderful sleeping weather tonight; fresh and chilly.

There is a fire going started by one of the3 other hikers. There are a half dozen hikers in the shelter, a few in tents 50 yards away, and me in my hammock.

The weather forecast I saw this morning before leaving the hostel called for a 30% chance of rain tomorrow, then sunny and warm for the rest of the week.

While hiking today I was thinking that so far this feels like just another weekend hiking trip. I wonder how long it will be before it starts transitioning from a hiking trip into a life-style.

New Years (+1)

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I started to write this yesterday, ut never finished it, thus the strange title.

Wow, it's New Years Day already! I remember last year on this day I woke up and the first thing I said to Jodi was something like "This is the year of my thru-hike."

Since I finished my hike I have tried to write about it a bunch of times, but I have a terrible time trying to find the words. As I think I said before, it seems to be the kind of thing that reveals itself slowly, over time. One not so great effect of my hike seems to be much less patience with the daily annoyances of life in a large metropolitan area. Aggressive drivers on the road really get under my skin. I don't deserve to be treated badly by someone who doesn't even know me. And I seem to have even less patience than I ever had for large crowds of people.

On the plus side, a lot of things just don't bother me the way they used to. I don't fret quite as much about a lot of the kind of stuff we all seem to spend too much energy fretting about; money, jobs, the future. I don't mean that I don't think about these things, and plan, and work to make those plans come about. But I don't fear them like I used to. I know just how much stuff I don't need to be comfortable and happy. That is really quite empowering.

Well, I said I have trouble putting these thoughts into words, and I still am. I don't seem to be expressing what I want to very well at all, so I think I am going to give up for now. I will mention one thing I remember someone asking about; how the hike affected me physically.

When I finished my hike, 6 months and 9 days after I started, I was the fittest I have ever been in my life. At the same time, I could barely walk. The ridiculously steep trail in New Hampshire and southern Maine destryed my knees. Jodi joined me on the final day to climb Katahdin, and when she saw how much I suffered descending, she told me that if she knew how bad my knees were she never would have let me get back on the trail after I had almost quit back in New Hampshire.

But my cardiovascular fitness was awesome. I could hike 20 miles per day, day after day, carrying a 35 – 40 pound backpack. It had been my plan to try to hold onto that fitness, and quickly transition from hiking to running after I returned home. Unfortunately, my knees prevented me from running at all for quite a few weeks; in fact, I could barely walk. Meanwhile, I continued to eat like I had on the trail. Many of my breakfasts included a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. I quickly gained back every one of the 20+ pounds I lost during the hike. By the time my knees would allow me to start runnign again, I had lost most of my conditioning. I have always had a hard time dealing with the cold and dark of winter, and just maintaining fitness is a huge challenge. I find it pretty much impossible to build fitness over the winter. So, the longest run I've done since my hike was about 6 1.2 miles, and most of my runs are 3 – 4.5 miles. Not very impressive for a marathoner. The good news is that my knees seem to be back to normal, I am running a few times a week, and once spring rolls around I plan to start training for another marathon. My feet actually got bigger during my hike, and they have stayed bigger. I have a closet full of running shoes that are a bit too small for me now. I think I can make them work by switching socks to something that takes up a bit less volume.

I think the basic thing I want to say is that the hike has made me a better person. I feel a bit more confident, and a bit less intimidated by life. I feel even closer to my wife, Jodi. I think — but maybe I should ask Jodi — that I am a bit calmer. And I have a lifetime of wonderful memories stored away in my head.

Happy New Year, and the best to all the aspiring thru-hikers in the class of 2010!



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Okay, I’m a bit of a geek, and as such I just love spreadsheets full
of numbers. Along my hike I kept track of my daily mileage and other
info, and it is all here. I imagine this holds absolutely no interest
for most of you, and that’s cool. But it might be of interest to a
minority, and so my spreadsheet is included here. There are three
files here, but they are all the same spreadsheet, saved in different
formats, including Open Document Format, to try to accommodate the
different spreadsheet programs people may be using. Data.ods Data.xls Data.xlsx

Allen F. Freeman

2,000 Miler Certificate

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Allen F. Freeman

Summing It All Up (NOT!)


So, It's been 12 days since I summited Katahdin and brought my
thru-hike to a close. I think some folks are expecting — and maybe I
have been expecting myself — to see a nice, neat summing up here of
what this whole trip was all about; what meaning and insight have I
gained from my hike.

Sorry to disappoint, but I have no idea. Certainly, I think about the
hike a lot; every day in fact. But what I think about is mostly simple
memories of moments along the trail. I find I miss the simplicity of
trail life. I think about those days in southern Virginia when I was
gliding over the trail effortlessly, day after day (okay, okay, but
that's how I remember it). I think about how lost I felt when I got
off the trail in Waynesboro and was home for the first time. I yearned
for the trail so badly then.

But I have no idea what this all is supposed to mean. A smart friend
told me that I will be assimilating thing experience into my life for
years to come. I think she's right.

Allen F. Freeman


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I finally got the last set of photos, those from Rangeley Maine to
Katahdin, up on my website, They can be found here:

Allen F. Freeman

Sunday, 9/27

AT Miles = 5.2 / 2178.3
Other Miles = 5.2 / 68.3
Total Miles = 10.4 / 2246.6

Miles to Katahdin = 0.0

Jodi and I were up at 4:45, hit the drive-thru at McDonalds (I know, I
know) at 5:00 when it opened, and were at the gate of Baxter State
Park by about 5:40. It was much warmer outside than it had been on
Saturday, but the sky was grey and threatening and the air was full of
moisture. There was no line today, and in fact we were only the second
car headed for Katahdin Stream Campground.

It was not quite light enough to hike when we arrived, so we parked
the car and ate or McDonalds breakfast. I went off to use the privy,
then we started to get our gear together to hike. Just then I heard a
familiar voice say “Is that Monkeywrench?” Well damn, it was Slagline.
I had last seen Slagline at the Doyle Hotel in Duncannon PA. At that
time he took some time off to spend with his fiancee. While I was home
letting my knees recover from the pounding they had taken in the
Whites, Slagline had gotten ahead of me and I had been seeing his name
in shelter registers which showed him 4 or 5 days ahead of me. I
figured he had already summited, but it turns out he had been hanging
out in Millinocket waiting for his fiance and another hiking friend to
come up and met him. He and his friend Gray were climbing Katahdin
today too.

After chatting for a few minutes we set off up the Hunt Trail, which
is the route the AT uses to get to the summit of Katahdin. We signed
in at the trailhead at 6:25. Jodi and I were moving a bit faster than
Slagline and Gray, so we soon left them behind. I let Jodi set the
pace, since she did not have six months of hiking to get her into
shape. We were trying not to push too hard, but at the same time did
not want to dawdle as we wanted to get up and down at least past the
worst of the rock scrambles before the rain came in. Jodi did an
awesome job, and we made steady progress up the rocks of the Hunt Spur
and finally over The Gateway until we were on the Table Land.
Amazingly it hadn’t yet started raining. We took a short break and
pushed on the last mile and a half across the Table Land and up to
Baxter Peak. Just as we arrived at the peak the wind picked up and a
huge bank of fog poured over the ridge and enveloped us.

Jodi was very cold and we lingered only long enough to take a few
photos and then turned around and headed back down. As we got back
down to the Table Land the wind eased and before dropping over The
Gateway and starting the downclimb of all the rocks, we took another
short break for snacks and water. Climbing down the rocks is always
harder than climbing up, especially for me with my gimpy knees. For
most of the climb down Jodi was actually having to wait for me. We
managed to get down most of the tough parts before it finally started
raining lightly, around 12:30. We signed out at the trailhead register
at 2:18 in the afternoon. On the way down we met Slagline’s fiancee
hiking up the trail a bit hoping to meet him and his friend Gray
coming down. Amazingly, she had had open heart surgery just four weeks
ago! When we told her that Slagline and Gray were at least an hour and
most likely an hour and a half or more behind us, she turned around
and walked back to her car to wait for them.

On the way up Jodi kept asking me how it felt, and I kept telling her
that we weren’t there yet. Well, when we finally reached the peak it
felt amazing. I couldn’t stop grinning, in spite of the cold. Some
other hikers that were already there congratulated me, and as we were
hiking down we passed several other thru-hikers on their way up. Lots
of high fives and hand shakes ensued.

Allen F. Freeman

Katahdin? Not Today!

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Saturday, 9/26

Yesterday when leaving Baxter State Park Jodi and I made it a point to
ask the ranger what time we would have to be at the gate in order to
be sure to be able to park at Katahdin Stream Campground (KSC). The
ranger told us that KSC would not fill up, that at this time of year
the only lot that filled up is Roaring Brook. Well, that was great
news, as I had been thinking we would have to be up at 4:00am and
sitting in line when the gate opened at 5:00. Instead I set the alarm
on my phone for 4:45, and we were in town at the diner when it opened
at 5:00 for breakfast. By 6:00 we were approaching the gate to Baxter
State Park when suddenly we had to stop because there was a huge line
of cars ahead of us. It was well past 7:00 when we finally got to the
gate, only to find that all of the trailheads for the various trails
up Katahdin were all full! So much for what we had been told yesterday
afternoon. We were also told that we could not park somewhere else and
walk to the Hunt Trail (that’s the route the AT follows) trailhead, as
the purpose of limiting parking is to limit the number of hikers on
the mountain, and thus we could not climb Katahdin today.

Disappointed, but with no options, we turned around and drove back to
town. Our only choice is to go back tomorrow and try again. The
weather today is absolutely perfect, clear and dry and cool. Tomorrow
there is an 80% chance of rain, and it may very well be a miserable
day up on the mountain. In fact, there is a chance it may be a Class 4
day, which means all trails will be closed and we may not be allowed
to climb the mountain. I sure hope that is not the case, as we have to
leave here Monday morning. Jodi has work scheduled the rest of the

This sure isn’t how I envisioned my hike ending. If we end up not
being able to climb tomorrow I am still going to call this a
thru-hike. I have been up Katahdin twice before, the last time just
over a year ago, so it’s not like I will have skipped climbing the
mountain, but I sure would prefer to get up there tomorrow.

Allen F. Freeman

Friday, 9/25

AT Miles = 13.4 / 2173.1
Other Miles = 0 / 63.1
Total Miles = 13.4 / 2236.2

Miles to Katahdin = 5.2

See that? Only 5.2 miles left. Who would have thought I would ever be
this close?!

From the moment I woke up this morning, I was in a giddy mood. It
rained overnight and was still raining a bit when I got up, but that
didn’t dampen my spirits a bit. It usually takes a bit longer to break
camp in the rain as I have to do everything underneath my little tarp,
but somehow this morning it didn’t, and I was on the trail a few
minutes after 7:00. From the shelter the trail climbs a bit on the way
to meeting the Golden Road at Abol Bridge. After cresting the first
little rise I saw a bull moose in the trail ahead of me. He sauntered
off into the woods 30 or 40 feet, then stood and watched me for a bit
to make sure I wasn’t any kind of threat. I pulled my camera out to
take a photo or two of him, and when I turned it on I was met with a
“Lens error!” message, and the lens refused to open. Damn! Well, I
figured that was just due to the battery getting low, and figured once
I charged up the battery when in town, everything would be fine.

I continued on, whistling and sauntering through the woods, until I
came out on the Golden Road about 8:30. A few minutes walking brought
me across the bridge over the Penobscot River and to the small camp
store there. I was still craving orange juice, and was disappointed to
find they did not have any. The best I could do was a bottle of orange
flavored Gatorade, which I accompanied with a packaged danish. I
watched a few logging trucks go barreling down the road while I stood
outside the store eating my snack. Boy, they stack ’em high!

By 9:00 I had crossed the boundary into Baxter State Park and had
reached the kiosk where the daily weather reports are posted, and
where thru-hikers can sign in for a spot at The Birches, which is a
small camping area set aside for hikers only. When I got there a
ranger was just finishing writing up today’s weather report, and I
spent a half hour standing there chatting with him. I also enjoyed a
few minutes of minor celebrity when a group from a local school hiked
past and the ranger told them that I had hiked all the way from
Georgia. That was kind of fun.

I was getting chilled standing still, so I soon left and continued on.
The trail follows the left bank of the Penobscot River upstream for a
number of miles before finally turning northeast to make its way to
Daicey Pond. On the way it crosses a couple of tributary streams, and
while crossing one of these my foot slipped off a wet rock and I got a
bootful of water. I hiked the last 4 or 5 miles with one wet, cold
foot and one dry, warm foot.

I reached the parking area at Katahdin Stream Campground a few minutes
before 1:00. I knew Jodi wouldn’t be getting there until about 2:00,
so I put on some warm clothes, changed my boots for my sandals, and
settled down on a picnic table to wait. A couple of minutes later I
saw Gator and Tiger walking towards me. What a great surprise! I had
been expecting to catch up with them ever since I saw them back in
Andover, but had finally figured it was not to be. It turns out they
were only about 3 1/2 miles ahead of me when I camped last night, as
they stayed at the commercial campground at Abol Bridge. We had a
great visit while I was waiting for Jodi, and I told them we would
bring them some hot breakfast sandwiches from town tomorrow morning,
since they will be camping in the Park tonight.

Once Jodi showed up we were off to town for a hot lunch, a shower, and
a nice meal out. It will be early to bed tonight so we can be up and in
town at the diner when it opens at 5:00, then off to Baxter to climb

Allen F. Freeman

Nahmakanta Lake to Hurd Brook Lean-to

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Thursday, 9/24

AT Miles = 19.9 / 2159.7
Other Miles = 0 / 63.1
Total Miles = 19.9 / 2222.8

Miles to Katahdin = 18.6

Orange juice. I have been craving orange juice for days now. Tomorrow morning I will come out of the Hundred Mile Wilderness at Abol Bridge on the Golden Road. The Golden Road is a private road owned by the timber companies, and Abol Bridge is where the road crosses the Penobscot River. At Abol Bridge there is a commercial campground and a small camp store. I sure do hope that store has orange juice!

Today was a gorgeous day. Last night’s storm was caused by a cool high pressure system moving in, so today has been breezy, clear, and cool. I had another 20 miles to hike, and you don’t, or at least I don’t, cover 20 miles by lollygagging, so most of the day I had my head down hiking, but once in a while I’d get a chance to look around and appreciate what a beautiful day it was. And when I was up on Rainbow Ledges I had a wondrous view of Katahdin, standing resplendant with bits of clouds stuck to its peak. The mountain was 20 trail miles away, but probably about half that as the crow flies.

It is going to be a cold night tonight, so I am getting my hammock rigged with extra under insulation, i.e. my down jacket.

Tomorrow morning I expect to be at the store at Abol Bridge around 8:30 or 9:00, chugging a quart of orange juice and eating something fatty and delicious. Then I will be off into Baxter State Park where if all goes to plan I will meet Jodi around 2:00PM. Then we’re off to Millinocket for a shower, a real meal, and a night in a soft bed. The forecast for Saturday looks good, so we will probably climb Katahdin that day. We do, however, have Sunday in reserve if need be.

“Home is where I hang my food bag”

Allen Freeman

Wednesday, 9/23

AT Miles = 21.2 / 2139.8
Other Miles = 0.1 / 63.1
Total Miles = 21.3 / 2202.9

Miles to Katahdin = 38.5

For the first time I can remember, I was the last one out of the campsite this morning. Not because I slept late or anything, but because the three people that slept in the shelter were all up and out early. I was up at 6:15, which is about as early as one can see in the morning nowadays, and on my way at 7:15.

It was a long day, but mostly smooth, more or less flat trail made the going easy. It was almost like hiking in Virginia.

I stopped at Antlers Campsite, on Lower Jo-Mary Lake. This campsite is at the site of an old sporting camp, and is a beautiful spot on a peninsula jutting into the lake and is in a grove of large red pine trees. I very briefly toyed wsith the idea of hanging my hammock and spending the day there reading and napping. I could do that and still make it to Baxter Park on Saturday, but I knew that come Friday night when I am sleeping in the woods instead of in a hotel room in Millinocket with Jodi, I would regret thje decision. So, I pushed on.

There is a spot on Pemadumcook Lake where you are supposed to be able to see Katahdin, but it is overcast today and I couldn't see anything.

Right now I am camped on the shore of Nahmakanta Lake, just inside the trees overlooking a sand beach. It is ridiculously warm today — in the mid-70's — so I took a swim in the lake. It is so warm that there are even some mosquitoes about! It has showered a couple of times today, and I just checked the weather forecast. 90% chance of rain tonight, with thunder showers after midnight! I hope the rain stops before I have to break camp and leave in thew morning.

It is supposed to cool off tomorrow, with overnight lows in tje 30s tomorrow night. It looks like the best weather day for the weekend will be Saturday, so it is good that I will be reaching Baxter on Friday and we can climb Katahdin on Saturday instead of Sunday, when there is a good chance of rain.

"Home is where I hang my food bag"

Allen Freeman

"Home is where I hang my food bag"

Allen Freeman

Lower Jo-Mary Lake

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"Home is where I hang my food bag"

Allen Freeman

Tuesday, 9/22

AT Miles = 18.9 / 2118.6
Other Miles = 0 / 63.0
Total Miles = 18.9 / 2181.6

Miles to Katahdin = 59.7

Man, oh man. I was tired when I woke up this morning! I pushed hard again today. I climbed the series of four peaks, each higher than the last, that culminate with Whitecap. From the summit of Whitecap you are supposed to be able to see Katahdin, and I tried to guess which blurry lump on the horizon that might be.

From Whitecap I descended down to West Branch Pond Rd, then continued north another ten miles to reach this shelter. This is the same shelter my brother Dana and I stayed at on the first night of our northbound section hike to Katahdin back in ’96.

In the last couple of miles, after passing Crawford Pond, I saw 5 dead mice or voles or some such lying right in the trail. Not all in one place but rather scattered along the two miles. Very weird. It was almost as if someone were dropping dead mice along the trail. Vaguely disturbing.

If I can pull off 21.5 miles tomorrow, I will be exactly one day ahead of schedule, which will put me in Baxter Park on Friday instead of Saturday.

“Home is where I hang my food bag”

Allen Freeman

Monday, 9/21

AT Miles = 20.8 / 2099.7
Other Miles = 0 / 63.0
Total Miles = 20.8 / 2162.7

Miles to Katahdin = 78.6

I put in a hard day’s work today, hiking from 7:15 in the morning until 6:45 in the evening. I started the day by climbing 1750′ up Barren Mountain, then I traversed the entire Barren-Chairback Range: Barren Mountain, Fourth Mountain, Third Mountain, Columbus Mountain, and Chairback Mountain. From Chairback Mountain I made the long descent to the Pleasant River, fordede the Pleasant River, and hiked another five miles up past the cut-off for the Gulf Hagas Trail.

While coming down towards the Pleasant River I ran out of water. Hiking along, tired and dehydrated, I took the sixth fall of this hike. It was really stupid; I caught the toe of my boot on a root and down I went.

I reached the shelter about 15 minutes before it got too dark to see the trail. I set up camp, fetched water (had to use my headlamp), washed up a bit, cooked and ate dinner, and went to bed, exhausted.

“Home is where I hang my food bag”

Allen Freeman

Monson to Long Pond Stream Lean-to

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Sunday, 9/20

AT Miles = 15.1 / 2078.9
Other Miles = 0 / 63.0
Total Miles = 15.1 / 2141.9

Miles to Katahdin = 99.4

Hey folks, look at that! Less than 100 miles to go! I can remember how thrilled I was when I reached the first 100 miles of this trek, and now here I am at the last 100 miles. It’s all starting to feel a bit surreal.

Today was a great day; just perfect hiking weather. Clear skies, cool temps, a mild breeze. And instead of laboring under my ridiculously heavy pack (43 pounds with 7 days of food aboard), I semi-slackpacked most of today. A former threu-hiker named Paddyo has been in the area ofering hikers shuttles and providing trail magic. I hadn’t mat Paddyo before last night, but Rookie, who I’ve been hiking with the last couple of days, knew him and arranged to have Paddy shuttle us to the trailhead this morning, then we put a bunch of our heavier gear — hammock, tarp, sleeping bag, most of my food — in Paddyo’s truck and hiked with a very light pack. Paddyo met us at a dirt road at mile 14. When I got there he pulled out the gas grill and fired it up to cook hamburgers and hotdogs. So after hiking 14 miles I had two cheeseburgers, two hot dogs, two cans of root beer, some potatoe chips, and three brownies. Paddyo is a big Johnny Cash fan and he showed us a DVD he has that includes some footage of a very young and very nervous Bob Dylan recording with Johnny Cash. It was awesome.

Once I tore myself away from all the food, I repacked my backpack with all the gear that Paddyo had shuttled for me and hefted my now very heavy pack to hike the one remaining mile up here to Long Pond Stream Lean-to.

As I am sure I mentioned before, my brother Dana and I hiked this section southbound years ago. It was great fun reminiscing about that trip along the way today. I forded Big Wilson Stream today and remembered that when we forded it on that previous trip, Dana stepped in a big hole and went in nearly to his waist. And just north of Big Wilson Stream the trail crosses the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railroad tracks. When Dana and I hiked through here a small work car with two men aboard came down the tracks, and if I remnember correctly, Dana had a short, shouted conversation with the two men as they went by.

I had entertained vague hopes of pushing 4 more miles today to reach Cloud Pond Lean-to, but that four miles includes a 2000 foot climb, and there just weren’t enough daylight hours left to make it. I hope to be able to get through most of the Barren-Chairback Range tomorrow. It all depends on how my knees hold up to all the climbing and descending. I would really like to get over White Cap by Tuesday evening. That’s the last significant climb until Katahdin. From where I am tonight it is 29 miles to Logan Brook Lean-to, on the north side of White Cap. The mileage is certainly doable, it’s just the climbing that has me worried. Also, the forecast calls for a 40% chance of rain on Tuesday afternoon, and 50% Tuesday night. Rain up on the bald peaks would make for dicey going on the rocks. Well, we’ll see what happens.

“Home is where I hang my food bag”

Allen Freeman

Zero Day in Monson

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Saturday, 9/19

AT Miles = 0 / 2063.8
Other Miles = 0 /63.0
Total Miles = 0 / 2126.8

Miles to Katahdin = 114.5

I didn’t do much today, which is exactly what a zero day is all about.

I, along with Dioko and Rookie, went over to Shaw’s for breakfast. We
had called yesterday to let them know we would be coming. Shaw’s
serves an all-you-can-eat breakfast for $7.00. It starts with you
telling them whether you want 2, 3, or 4. This means 2 pancakes, 2
sausage links, 2 strips of bacon, 2 eggs, and homefries, or 3 of each,
etc… And that is just round one. After everyone gets served, they
start taking second orders. If one were a real glutton. one could have
8 pancakes, 8 eggs, etc. And the food was really excellent. I ended up
having 3 bluebery paancakes, 4 bacon, 2 sausage, 2 scrambled eggs, a
pile of homefries, and 2 glasses of orange juice.

After breakfast I went through the box of food Jodi had sent me and
combining it with what little I had left in my bag when I got here,
discovered all I needed to buy for the next and last leg of my hike
was some kind of snack to eat with my lunches. I also had a couple of
maps I am finished with so I took them to the post office and mailed
them home, then I went to the general store and bought a box of
“Chicken in a Biskit” crackers. I’m not sure I spelled that right. I
haven’t eaten those since I was a kid!

That was all the chores for the day. I spent the afternoon hanging out
in the pub behind the laundromat, eating, drinking martinis, and
chatting with other hikers. I spent quite a bit of time chatting with
Banjo and her boyfriend. Banjo thru-hiked last year and they were at
Katahdin climbing the mountain to commemorate the one year anniversary
of completing her thru-hike.

Later when I was back at the pub for dinner I chatted with Bison for
quite a while. It’s kind of strange because everyone is starting to
reminisce about their hike. Bison and I spent a long time comparing
notes on who we had hiked with previously that had gotten off the
trail for one reason or another. There are so many! The attrition rate
for thru-hikers is about 75%. We talked about how amazing it is that
we are actually still here. When I started this hike I knew the odds
were against me actually completing it, yet here I still am, after
many ups and downs (both literal and figurative). Of course, the hike
isn’t over yet. I still have over a hundred miles to walk, and
anything could happen.

Well, it’s off into the Hundred Mile Wilderness tomorrow.

Allen F. Freeman

Friday, 9/18

AT Miles = 9.0 / 2063.8
Other Miles = 0 /63.0
Total Miles = 9.0 / 2126.8

Miles to Katahdin = 114.5

Not much to talk about today. I got up this morning and hustled down
the trail to get to Monson before the weather closed in. Dark clouds,
cold wind. It's definitely good to be in town today!

I am staying at the Lakeshore House, which is a combination
laundromat, pub and grill, and lodging house! And the food at the pub
is way better than I would expect to get in a small town like this.

I will be taking a zero day tomorrow. After hiking every day for the
last 15 days, I need a little break. I will also get my food and other
supplies squared away for the final push through the Hundred Mile
Wilderness. I've made arrangements with Jodi to meet me in Baxter
State Park next Friday or, more likely, Saturday. The following day we
will climb Katahdin together, and the day after that I will be home,
and likely a bit lost and disoriented.

But for right now, there's dinner in the pub a bit later, and music
in, of all places, the general store tonight.

Allen F. Freeman

Thursday, 9/17

AT Miles = 13.0 / 2054.8
Other Miles = 0 / 63.0
Total Miles = 13.0 / 2117.8

Miles to Katahdin = 123.5

I often wonder how some of trhe other thru-hikers manage to have such small, light packs. Well, I found out at least part of the reason this morning. It was cold last night, and when I got up this morning a bunch of other hikers were talking about how cold they were last night. Not me. I was toasty warm. I am carrying my warm sleeping bag, plenty of warm clothing, and plenty of insulation for the bottom of my hammock.

First thing this morning I climbed to the summit of Moxie Bald. What a beautiful morning it was up there! The air was cold and crisp and still, the valleys below were filled with fog, and there were just enough puffy white clouds in the sky to give the sun something to shine on and to lend depth to the sky.

After climbing down the mountain I stopped at Moxie Bald Lean-to for an early lunch. The shelter is near the shore of Moxie Pond so I took my food bag down to the water and sat on a rock in the sun and ate lunch with a gorgeous view out across the water. It was so peaceful and comfortable that I toyed with the idea of staying there and spending the day sitting in the sun reading my book, but practicalities won out and I soon pushed on nine more miles to this lean-to.

Along the way I had to ford the West Branch of the Piscataquis River. As fords go it wasn't much; the water barely came to my ankles. But fords eat up time. You have to take your pack off, remove boots and socks, put sandals on, tie boots to pack, put pack back on, ford the river, then reverse everything. But, the cold water sure did feel good on my aching feet!

I will be in Monson tomorrow. I have been frantically trying to figure the logistics for the final leg from Monson to Baxter. The problem is that I need to know Jodi's schedule and cell phone reception is lacking around here. Right now I am planning to take a zero day in Monson on Saturday. I haven't had a day off since I got back on the trail in Gorham. Tomorrow will be my 15th straight day of hiking. If I leave Monson on Sunday morning, I expect I shouid be in Baxter Park next Saturday. I may be able to get there on Friday, but that would be piushing pretty hard. Once I get to Baxter I need one more day to climb Katahdin, and this summer-long quest will be over!

"Home is where I hang my food bag"

Allen Freeman

Wednesday, 9/16

AT Miles = 18.7 / 2041.8
Other Miles = 0 / 63.0
Total Miles = 18.7 / 2104.8

Miles to Katahdin = 136.5

A full day today. It got pretty cold last night, and I was warm and snug in my bag, making it a bit hard to get out and get going this morning. But I was anxious to reach the Kennebec River. For some reason that felt like a big milestone to me. I was hiking a few minutes after 7:00, and I reached the river around 8:30. Dragon Breath was already there, having camped near the river last night. We waited until 9:00 when Dave, the guy that ferries hikers across in a canoe, showed up on the opposite bank. He soon paddled across, and after signing liabilty waivers and donning life jackets, we were off across the river. By 9:20 I was back in harness and heading up the trail away from the river.

After lunch I climbed Pleasant Pond Mountain, and for the first time since Monday got cell phone reception. I sent yesterday’s blog entry and checked email and voice mail messages. I had two messages from my daughter Anju informing me that the event I was going to attend with her next Monday has been postponed indefinitely.

So, big change of plans! Instead of going home for a week or so from Monson, I will be continuing on into the Hundred Mile Wilderness and towards Katahdin. Only problem is, I had sent my bounce box home from Stratton, and had told Jodi not to assemble and mail a food drop to Monson for me. As soon as I heard Anju’s message I called Jodi and luckily caught her at home. I asked her to put together a food drop for me and get it in the mail today if possible. A bit later I remembered that the last three maps are in the bounce box I sent home, so I called again and asked her to include those with the food drop.

If anybody thinks hiking the trail is hard, think about how hard it is being the at-home support person. Jodi had just gotten home from work today when I called and started issuing frantic requests: send me 6 dinners, 10 packages of oatmeal, a package of English Muffins, a jar of peanut butter, etc. etc. And I will be in Monson by noon on Friday so you have to mail it today.

Jodi actually asked me if it was alright if she had lunch first. Not sarcastically, either. She was actually going to skip eating lunch to go run around getting everything I wanted.

It would be far more difficult foro me hiking the trail if I didn’t have Jodi at home responding to my every whim.

When I was down almost to the bottom of Pleasant Pond Mountain I ran into Bookworm hiking southbound. I had last seen Bookworm in Shenandoah National Park, at Lewis Mountain Campstore where I had stopped to take a shower, eat some junk food, and drink a beer. Bookworm is doing some kind of art project about the AT and is interviewing hikers, so we sat down next to the trail and did a little interview for 15 minutes or so, then I said good-bye and pushed on the last 4 miles or so to this campsite. I had run out of water about three miles before reaching here, so I was really happy to arrive and get water from the brook.

It is about 50 degrees right now, with predictions of a hard frost for tonight. I am only planning to hike about 13 miles tomorrow, so I can take my time getting up in the morning. Usually that means sleeping until 6:15 instead of 6:05. 🙂

I expect to be in Monson by noon on Friday. My next task is to figure out Jodi’s schedule and when she can meet me in Baxter, figure out how long it will take me to get there from Monson (right now I am thinking 7 days) then figure out if I have enough time to take a zero day in Monson. It will be 15 days without a day off when I get to Monson on Friday, so a zero day would be very welcome.

“Home is where I hang my food bag”

Allen Freeman