Sculpture v1

I’ve passed thru a couple sculpture gardens on the North Country Trail, the first one caught me off guard as I was walking through the woods and found this:
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A horrifying effigy of a horse with human hands bursting from its neck to deliver unto you a human (?) heart. Once you realize you are in a sculpture garden and not transgressing unto a grove which cultists use for their activities… then its okay.

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This first garden had some delightfully unsettling pieces. like the horse above, but also these masks sitting on stakes, serving as a warning to all those who hike the NCT thru NY. Without context and coming thru at night could’ve been real weird.

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While this boat may not have been in a formal sculpture garden, or be as unsettling without context, it still counts as sculpture. Located on a little bit of roadwalk soon after the NCT merges with the Buckeye Trail (BT) in OH. It even has portholes! If it was after dark and I came upon this I’d be half tempted to sleep inside, but I guess then I’d be the creepy one.

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Pushing the dial even further from fear into whimsy, here’s a couple from Lākenenland in MI’s upper peninsula! Not 100% on the story of this place, and it’ll probably feature pretty prominently in a future trip log. This place is really cool though, the guy even maintains a pretty nice shelter there too. (with a door, and cots!)

P.S. a year ago today I finished the AT, I may have to abbreviate a little more in the logs if I wanna catch up before I’m done.

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The End of All Things.

Or: in which I finish the AT and get melodramatic about it.

North of the Mahoosucs ME is pretty easy, the Bigelows are there but aren’t a significant challenge what I’d already gone up against, and it was getting time to speed back up. I was Getting into ME when a lot of the SoBos were getting out, and I gave them some (hopefully) good advice when we met, but for the most part, if they were making it outta ME, they’d probably be fine getting to GA. Managed to pass off the copy of The Hobbit I’d picked up in VA to a SoBo who said she’d try and drop it significantly farther South so it could keep bouncing around the trail. Book-wise, I’d moved onto Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, an Author who I’ve found myself reading in the wilds on more than one occasion, as for my thoughts on it, in a word, great. Easily my favorite new book I’ve read on trail so far, (speaking from MT a year later.) and I would recommend it to anyone who is searching their person, or the world for something.

My parents, almost as excited as I am about my antics on trail had decided to meet me in ME for the end and a day or so of rest. (… and to try and set up this blog, didn’t work out all that well, took till this past May to actually get things set, and I’m only a month in so who knows if this is fully set[fingers crossed here]) Best of all, they brought their dog, and my cat along for the ride, both of whom handled the trip surprisingly well, and I was very happy to get to play with my cat Athena. Only problem with this arrangement however, is that I was behind schedule, by a fair bit too. They we able to extend their time out here and disperse trail magic (homemade brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and whole milk!) for other hikers as they got into slackpacking me northward. This really picked up my pace, and I was able to three day the hundred mile wilderness as a result. This lead to my longest day so far (and somewhat unlikely to be surpassed…), Jo Mary Rd in the hundred miles, to Katahdin, and back to Katahdin springs campground, for about 62 miles.

Nearly everything went my way for that final push, little in the way of elevation, a full moon to climb Katahdin by, and clear skies the whole way up. On a mission, I wordlessly passed the last few shelters filled with hikers in various stages of sleep. Made my way into Baxter, gave a token effort to find a register before heading up, and started the climb. Katahdin is maybe the most significant elevation gain on the whole trail, and it shows as you climb inadequate ladders of rebar, and hoist yourself up the rocks chasing the trail ever higher. A half hour or so after reaching the tree line the moon had begun to set, and I was strictly on headlamp for actionable light. Moving as if dreaming, “surely, the tablelands can’t be much farther…” I would repeat to myself. Finally the sky began to brighten, as I was just on the cusp of the tablelands: I had not walked all this way, from Georgia, through this night, to have set my eyes on a summit sunrise and fail. Reaching the table lands as the deep black of night turns navy and the yellows and oranges bound up from the peripheral horizons as if jeering me onward. Half stumbling, half running, till I could faintly see the sign that marks the Appalachian Trail Terminus, Looming over the last bit of elevation before the end, twenty-one hours and 57 miles of hiking since I had started the morning before.

I had made it.

Fiddling around so I could take a good picture of me on the sign took forever, angling a camera between a rock and a jacket so you can climb a sign in amid decent gusts is hard work, especially when you are already tired. I ended up spending about an hour and a half at the aerie by my lonesome, not quite ready to be done, not quite ready to get back to walking. When the sun was firmly in the up position I began to head down, meeting other thru-hikers all the while put it in perspective, I was done, and the AT was over, every time I would see one of my friends from here on it might be the last time. That’s how it always is though, life gives no guarantees. I finally made it back to KSC, found my father and signed the register and collapsed into the passenger seat of his van, ready to sleep until it would next be time to eat.

Architecture v1: Aliens

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These stairs in the Hawking Hills area of OH look like they were torn from a Dungeons and Dragons campaign or something, with their strong lines, needless curvature, and decorative obelisks. Mix that with the occasional missing tile to lend it a well preserved yet ancient feel, like it was left behind by some well meaning conspiracy theory.

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This UFO moonlights as a ski lift in VT. Hey, aliens got mouths to feed too, and in this economy…

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Seriously though, which of these alien landscapes does this most belong to? The obvious answer, is all of them. 60s modernism was made for the moon, and still looks like its itching to leave Earth.

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One of the larger pieces of machinery I’ve seen laying about the eastern woods, I think this contraption is meant to drive the belts that power other machines, maybe from the first oil rush, maybe from logging. looking back, I could’ve spared a couple more moments to gawk at it, maybe see if there was any information stamped upon it. (I think this was sorta near Sheffield, PA, on or near the NCT. If anyone knows more or wants to go investigate.)

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This is totally explainable by modern science, but when I came upon it there was a distinct otherworldly sense about an abandoned telephone pole in the woods. It having been reclaimed by nature and made into some raptor’s home amid a desolate field is just poetry.

Pacific Northwest Trail!

Finished out the last significant road-walk for a long time, (winter) between the NCT and PNT, and am getting started on the PNT this morning! Thanks to my Dad’s slack packing I was able to make it this quick. I’ll probably be out of internet range mostly until the PCT in early to mid August, but I have a long buffer of blog posts that will hold out unless something catastrophic happens. Here’s an uncropped version of the picture I put on instagram last night. The last good sunset I got before the Rockies came into view. (and brought a lot of rain with them)

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And here’s the first good look at the Rockies I got:

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Glacier NP is an exciting place.

White Mountain Hues

The Notches of the Whites lived up well to their reputation as a major difficulty spike, but the ridges in particular slowed me down a lot. Not due to their being difficult but rather they’re rather striking, and fairly unique within the context of the AT. Franconia Ridge in particular struck me, with the trail laid out with lines of stones at either side like parapets giving you the impression that you’re a sentry on patrol of an ancient border, looking for invaders from the fog below. Maybe I’ve just been reading too much Lord of the Rings, you decide:White Mt.JPG

I had surprisingly good weather through the whites, only a couple of rainstorms. One of thee storms seemed to be lower than the ridge-line, and as I ascended to the pass it was obvious the rain droplets getting smaller and smaller, until they disappeared entirely and broke through the cloud tops to find clear skies above. Descending the other side yielded the opposite effect confirming to my mind that I was not in the midst of a sort of waking dream.

The huts treated me well, I was able to get work for stay at both Greenleaf, (Which is far enough off trail that they seldom get thru-hikers, and even more seldom do they turn them away.) and Mizpah. Got turned away to minor disaster at Madison, they’d taken double their daily allotment of thru-hikers on work for stay so you can hardly blame them. (Although it seems plenty of thru-hikers harbor a bit of angst towards the AMC huts, despite there being plenty of stealth sites that they’re happy to point you to.) After I got turned at Madison I kept going, planning to push my luck a bit and cowboy camp just below treeline on the other side of Mount Madison, so I could get up for a summit sunrise. As things go when you push your luck; clouds roll in, rain starts a’falling, and I wonder how I could be so foolish as to not see this coming, as I frantically pack up. Not content with one series of bad decisions, I took it upon myself to hike through the night, rather than simply move to the campsite a ways down the hill. Part fury, part sleepwalking, I found myself stumbling thru the Great Gulf Wilderness at night, one of few places on the AT that is totally un-blazed. I don’t know how long I spent there, but it seemed to swallow the hours whole as if I was unable to wake from a dream. Then the sunrise came, early as it does near the beginning of July, dispelling the illusions in which I seemed to tread, and just in time for me to find my way out to the road at Pinkham notch. I recovered and dried my gear atop Wildcat Mountain’s observation platform, the aid of the warm sun and a strong dry wind made quick work of even my damp sleeping bag. Of minor note, I broke the tip off one of my trekking poles coming down from Mt. Jefferson, but it was a quick fix at the hostel a couple days later.

The difficulty wasn’t quite over, the Whites seems to get the press on the trail as the hardest section, but immediately following them is the dark horse candidate, the Mahoosucs. Maybe it was just that they were unexpected, but coming into ME was much more of an ordeal than anticipated. They feature easily the hardest (but also the most fun) single mile on the AT, the Mahoosuc Notch, a deep boulder field where the trail disappears under over and around the many large rocks, into and around small caves still filled with the snow of winters previous.

Boots on the Ground v1

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The trusty first pair of boots, atop Mount Greylock. I got about 2300 miles on these, divided between 1700 on the AT and around 500 or so during the winter on the NCT.

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The ill-fated second pair of boots, from atop a ski lift I climbed to watch the sun set over lake Champlain. These ones I wore long past broken and still only got about 1300 miles out of them…

Macomb Boots

Another of Boots Mk. II, this one is atop Macomb Mountain, Just a couple days into the NCT, and after quite a fight to schwak up Macomb the wrong way. Ill-advised perhaps, what it cut in distance it probably stole away in time. The whole side I went up was covered in dense pine thicket.

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To add some recent flavor, here’s one of my feet and 4th pair of boots at the end of the NCT. My feet’ve performed admirably, and have seldom gotten much worse than this minor amount of damage shows. These boots have done similarly well, but they’re on the way out. (can’t replace your feet, yet…) With about 2300 miles on them in this picture, they won’t live to see the PNT.