Tracking Zero and Tennille
I do apologize-- I have been out of communication for a couple of days; as I get closer to Canada the signal has gotten terrible. Since we entered section 12, the final section, the trek has become really difficult. The heat and humidity are oppressive, and there is no wind. It is hard to believe that less than a week ago we were freezing. The terrain has become less rocky, but there are more roots. It is still very muddy and the climbs are steep and exhausting for both of us. It is more difficult for her due to the heat. Today we ran short on water, ironic in a state that has way too much.I gave the last of mine to Tennille with some Drool Fuel to keep her going, and for the last half of the day I carried her pack for her. It tapped the last of my reserves for today, which were low to begin with. On a lighter note, I met 3 Canadians today. They were out for a day hike to summit Jay Peak. Ironically enough, when I met them they were at the summit of Mt. Buchanan. For those of you who don't know your VT geography, they spent the entire day hiking in the wrong direction! They took it with good humor when "the blind guy" informed them of their error. After nearly 12 miles, we reached camp. I can't remember wanting water more than I did today. I was crushed earlier in the day when the only spring we found was "invaded" by Tennille, who jumped in and turned it into sludge to the point that I couldn't filter it. As of this point, we have a little less than 13 miles to the border. To celebrate, I am making back country fajitas. Thanks to Laine Rountree Walter for sending me tortillas and Alpine Air for the pepper steak and rice. It isn't exactly what you would get at On The Border, but it's pretty darn good. I call it "back country gourmet." Tomorrow we have a hard 7.4 miles over Jay Peak and will camp at the last shelter before Canada. On Thursday we will hike the remaining 4.8 miles to the border and meet our ride back down south, beginning the trip home. Having trekked through knee deep mud today, it is nice to call it a day.
Laine is reporting again. She spoke with Trevor around noon. He had picked up his resupply in Montgomery Center and could not wait to tell Laine how much he had enjoyed the women in the Town Clerk's office. He said they were some of the sweetest people he had met in all of his travels. Thank you, Linda and Renee and the others in the office!! You all made his day so very bright. Trevor is just 23.3 miles from Journey's End and on schedule to arrive Thursday morning. He said that although he is very focused to remain mentally engaged with the rest of the hike, he is starting to crave certain foods that have been absent for the past month. High on his list is a multilevel chocolate cake, a Starbucks coffee, and a dinner at Smashburger with fried pickles. He met some people hiking southbound who told him that tomorrow would be a challenging day, and that the final full day of hiking would be much easier. We are hoping for signal at some point tomorrow as this adventure draws to its end.
Laine is reporting today. She herd from Trevor around 3pm-- he had reached his campsite, which is about 3 miles fron the final resupply. She didn't get many details due to a poor cell phone connection. They persisted in order to coordinate the transition of resupply tomorrow. She connected with the town clerk of Montgomery Center after the 2 Trail Angels who had been recommended were out of town. The people in VT have been fantastic getting on board with this experience. After Trevor gets back on trail, he will have 38 miles to go. A ride has been arranged on Thursday back to Rutland, VT, and it appears that they will make that date. Hopefully, tomorrow will bring more news as this trail comes down to the final stretch. It is a very exciting week.
Woke up this am and it was warm-- much warmer than it had been. That, however, was not a good thing. I needed for Tennille to do high miles for at least one day during this final stretch, and with it being so hot, it was not the ideal day. After reviewing the trail data, I nothiced that the shelter spacing in this section had larger gaps. Hopefully, this meant the tr=errain would be a bit easier. Relying on experience, intuition, and whole lot of luck, I decided to push for 15 miles. That would mean being able to get our ride at the end of the trail-- I was betting my hotel reservation and flight on us being able to go the distance. Those had already been purchased earlier in the day. We left early, hoping to get some good miles in before it got too hot. The first 4 miles I knew should have been somewhat mellow because we were going toward a road and a river, which are always down low. What I didn't count on was that signage in this section has become very minimal, making it difficult to find our way. Luckily, a guy stopped at the shelter last night, and he was doing high miles. Early in the day he caught and passed us. This was good news, as I hoped Tennille had picked up his scent and would follow. The terrain wasn't steep or rocky, which was good, because I have both a sore knee and wrist from a fall the other day. Tennille also needed a break from the climbing. She led the way, which was good because most of the day I had little to no idea where I actually was. The few hard markers we had (streams, ledges) and a single shelter were few and far between, and most weren't associated with any specific mileage. So, even though the terrain was more gentle, this actually proved to be one of the most difficult to negotiate. At the end of the day, it became incredibly hot, and my trusty phone told me it was between 85-90 degrees, and VERY humid. Toward the latter part of the day, we had a 1000-1500 foot climb. With the heat and the added miles I was asking Tennille to do, we had to stop many times. With the increased frequency and duration of the stops, I began to wonder if we would be able to make it to the shelter. Thankfully, once we reached the top of Laraway Mountain, Tennille go a much needed second wind and began hiking with a purpose. We covered the last 3 miles in near-record time and found a really sweet camp spot. I couldn't be more proud of Tennille. The day was hers, both physically and mentally. We are looking to a slightly shorter day tomorrow.
Decided to "zero" in Stowe so we could get fully dried out, resupply, and plan the final leg of the=is trek. The way it looks, we are shooting to finish on Thursday. I have often said that getting to and from the trail is as hard as hiking it-- getting back from the Canadian border is no exception. Laine Rountree Walter has spent countless days trying to get rides from the border back to civilization and then back to Charlotte. This has been, as she said, "planes, trains, and automobiles" or a combination of all of them. Plans are not solidified yet, but they are close to falling into place. Thank you so much, Laine!! Tennille has enjoyed her day off and the weather appears to be clearing. We have heard that it should remain stable for the next 3 days before the rain returns. This will be fitting if it does return. We could then finish much like we started: wet! For those of you who followed our trek of the MST (Mountains to Sea Trail) last season, you know that my love for COKE and the streak I have for getting one in every trail town where I stop. I am very happy to report that VT is a Coke state, and the streak lives on. Our new friend, Neil VanDyke, is picking us up bright and early tomorrow morning and taking us back to the trail. We have a little over 65 miles left, and are excited to have reached this final leg of our journey. I want to send a special thank-you to Tom and the rest of the gang at Marmot. The layers are working great-- I am especially grateful for the rain gear. Had I not fallen into the waterfall yesterday, it would have kept me totally dry.
Last night, the rain returned with a vengeance. Woke up in camp with 8 miles to get to the resupply location. Between us and the resupply was the tallest mountain in VT, Mount Mansfield, with its rugged Nebraska notch. Since we were low on food we had no other option but to forge ahead in the rain. The trail was a literal river: sometimes shin and knee deep. The trail was also very rocky, and laden with many roots, which made the trek very slow. With everything wet, the danger of falls is more likely-- we have to take more precautions. We took the "bad weather" route around the Needle's Eye because thatsection was deemed unsafe and dangerous for pets. However, the bad weather route was no picnic, either. It was mostly made of slab (rock) but with all the rain it was like climbing a waterfall! Today was the kind of day when you had to put your head down and keep going. On top of the mountain is alpine terrain, and the rain and wind were blowing hard, making it very cold. This was especially true because I was sopping wet, having fallen into one of the waterfalls. Once we reached the top, I had hopes that our troubles were over, since we were only 1.7 miles from the road. That, however, is when things got interesting. The descent was incredibly slick--it was a true team effort. Tennille identified the problems, and I had to figure out how to get us down. In many places, I had to down climb 15-20 feet, drop my pack, climb back up, and figure out how to get Tennille safely down. Luckily, both of us made it down with no injuries. The climb today was miserable because of the weather-- if it had been sunny, it would have been a joy, much like the Camel's Hump. When we reached the road, everything we owned was wet to the core. Neil VanDyke head of Search and Rescue for Vermont, picked us up, took us to the post office, to the outfitter, and, as it turns out, he and his wife own a hotel. Knowing Tennille was spent for the day and I was cold and wet, we decided to stay the night in Stowe. I cannot thank Neil and his wife enough for their kindness and generosity. We are eternally grateful for their assistance. If you are ever in Stowe, please look them up, tell them we said, hello, and pay a visit to their hotel.
I had no signal tonight-- Laine is filling you in. Per Laine: This was to be the day of climbing the highest peak in VT (I was told by one of the Trail Angels) so I was looking forward to hering how that went. Tomorrow they will be heading to Stowe, VT where he will pick up his next to last resupply and last fuel of the trail. This has been the most logistically challenging section, but I've had some great phone conversations with many people from the Trail community in VT in the process. The first sentence has been the same with each of them . . ."Did you say he is blind?" and the story continues. We are working hard to figure the path back from VT to Charlotte, which may be the most complicated part of the whole adventure-- reminds me of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles." Negotiating that event with Tennille and the limited schedules of trains and planes is not a simple feat. We welcome any suggestions! At present, we have found a ride back to Rutland, VT and Trail Angel Kathryn and her husband are willing to help them get to the next location, but scheduling is tricky. . . and we're not yet certain of that next location. However, I am certain it will all come together. The weather there is rainy again, so trekking will be slower and more methodical. Hopefully, by tomorrow night, Trevor will again be able to dictate his post from the trail. Thanks to all of you for your encouragement. He loves hearing each and every post and "like."
Woke up to no rain! I was very happy that we decided to hold up before climbing to the summit of Mount Abraham. It was probably the toughest climb that Tennille and I have had thus far. It was nearly a mile long slab and rock scramble that was above tree line. We did have high winds, but at least the rocks were fairly dry, allowing us to climb. For most of thus climb I had to allow Tennille off leash. She is a faster climber than I am, takes different routes, and would always stop about every 59 feet to make sure that I was okay. I am really happy were worked on off leash recall the past few weeks. Once we got tot the top, we summited Mt. Lincoln and Mt. Ellen before starting a steep descent. We had our first encounter with ladders. With a 5 tiered section covering nearly 50 feet of close to vertical descent, I was forced to down climb, drop my pack, climb back up, grab Tennille's harness and carry her down each section. Needless to say, the process was slow, but we made it down safely. I met some day hikers who told me this is the roughest section of the entire Long Trail. The pair were a very nice couple who, after hearing my story, wanted to take our picture, learn how to follow us on Facebook, and are planning to become Guide Dogs for the Blind donors. I was very moved and grateful. Speaking of Guide Dogs for the Blind and donating, there is still a small window of time to vote for Tennille to be a poster dog for the Guide Dogs for the Blind 2015 calendar. Tennille would like to thank Taste of the Wild for her food, In Clover for her supplements, and Varsity Pets for her "drool fuel." The combination is working really well. Tomorrow we head to Highway 17 for a long resupply and heading over Camel's Hump, hopefully completing the most difficult section of the Long Trail. Thanks to everyone for your well wishes and all of your comments-- we really appreciate them.
We woke up this morning and it was sunny and a bit warmer than it has been. I think Tennille was excited to start hiking again. She woke up uncharacteristically early, and instead of eating and falling back to slepp like she normally does while I do chores, she got out of the tent and sat by her pack. We made good time for our resupply. I thought it would take us until around noon, but we arrived at the rendezvous spot at 9:30. While we were waiting for Tom and Kathryn, two women stopped, got out of their car, and introduced themselves. We were excited to discover we have some fans in VT. The couple we met on Ethan Allen a few days ago had taken our photo and posted it on the web. They recognized us from the photo and wanted to meet us. That was a special treat. Around noon, we got resupply from Tom and Kathryn, went to lunch, and had another Vermont cheeseburger (very tasty), and the set out for the trail once again. We have now set up camp at Duck Brook shelter which has a cascading waterfall for a water supply. The only downside is that it is a hike down a 100 foot cliff to get it. The climb down was not bad, but the climb up with 4 liters of water-- not so much! Tomorrow we have a lot of climbing ahead of us, and we'll be heading toward the Nebraska Notch. Each day, as we get closer to Canada, the mountains get steeper and rockier. It is testing our partnership and cooperation. Each day we are becoming a more cohesive hiking team. Tennille has even started changing her line to accommodate my hiking style. We are supposed to have WARM weather for the next day or so, and then the storms are supposed to return. We have been really fortunate to have this break from the rain during the time we needed it most.
No SPOT GPS today, as we have not moved. Due to my inability to do math and to the safety trail we took yesterday, we outhiked our resupply. We have 5 miles to go to get to our rendezvous spot, so Tennille and I took a "zero" in the woods. For those of you who don't know what that is, it means you do zero miles. As a thru-hiker, spending a day in the woods and not going forward is tough. As a blind thru-hiker, there is very little to do. We did some chores, searched for wood in an attempt to make a fire, but everything was still too wet. We got stocked up on water, and Tennille caught up on some much needed sleep. On days like today, I wish I had my iPod with me. The highlight of the day was moving my solar panel through the trees looking for sun so I could charge my batteries. We're looking forward to getting back to hiking tomorrow. I am hoping this experience will improve my mathematical skills. We have plotted our final resupplies and are getting closer to figuring out how the heck I get back home from the Canadian border. I wanted to send a big thank you to Revo Sunglasses for my awesome glasses. Not only is it cool to tell people that I am a blind hiker sponsored by a sunglass company, but more than once on this hike they have saved my eyes from being poked out by sticks.
(Please accept apologies from my Webmaster-- she didn't know the blogs weren't going through. I'll start with Day 19 and try to backtrack as I am able.)
Day 19: woke up to one of the best campsites we have had thus far. I had coffee in a rock chair made by a trail maintainer. It was wonderful! Packed up and left the shelter, went 25 years, and ran into more ladders. That set the tone for the day. The steep descent was slow & methodical, but both Tennille and I made it to the Appalachian Gap unscathed. We met Kathryn, who took us into town for resupply. We had lunch in a movie theater (popular in VT) and got fueled up and headed back to the trail. Thanks again, Kathryn. The second half of the day started with a slight climb to Molly's Ridge and a very strenuous descent, which to a blind person and a Guide dog, was much like the descent into Hell in Dante's Inferno. When we finally reached the bottom, we were very thankful. Following that, the trail was quite mucky all the way to our campsite. After tomorrow, we will have less than 100 mile to go. Special thanks to the gang at Katadyn Water Filters and Purifiers. Thus far, I couldn't be happier with my Hiker Pro. My TiLite stove is working great. A big thank you to George and the folks at Cliff. The Builder Bars, Mojo Bars, and Shots are keeping me going throughout the day. We heard the weather report-- they are actually expecting what VT calls "sunny" days through Monday-- we couldn't be happier.
Day 3- April 8: Had a better day hiking with only wind and cold, but no rain. It was still a grueling trek, but we were able to make up some of our lost mileage in spite of the challenges. We are camping near the store holding our resupply (we dropped it off on the way to the trailhead on Saturday) and will keep hiking after gathering everything tomorrow. Tennille is still doing great and loves being back in the woods again. There will be some major adjustments at the next resupply when Jesse has to leave.
Day 2: April 7- Had a torrential downpour last night that went into the morning. We managed to get packed up with everything wet while there was a lull in the storm and started hiking.Very quickly, the rain came back and stayed with us all day, as did the wind and cold. The trail was slipper, fairly well maintained, but very difficult hiking. We plodded out 13 miles today, got water at a church, and are stealth camping tonight. We ran into a guy going southbound. He us doing the south loop. He, too, commented that the trail has been brutal. I couldn't be more pleased with Tennille's Ruffwear hard shell. Everything we own is wet, but her back stayed dry! We're hoping the weather breaks tomorrow and that we make it to Iron Bridge Cafe by 2pm so we can get our resupply. Hoping to sleep well tonight. More to come.
Day 1-April 6: Today before we started hiking we chatted with Mountain Squid, the man who checked me in to start hiking the AT 6 years ago today. It was great to catch up with him. We hiked 12 miles; along the way we did some filming with our new cameras: the Sony Action Cam is awesome. Thanks so much AHNU for getting them for us. Found a great campsite, made a fire, warmed our tired bones for a bit, and are now hunkered down in our tents, preparing for an impending storm. All in all, a good first day on the BMT. Much like last year, we are the only ones hiking it thus far. It is so nice having Jesse Pegg along. Thank you, Rachel for letting him come out with me.
Tennille had her post hike vet visit with Dr. Thompson at Matthews Animal Clinic in Matthews, NC. We combined it with her annual wellness visit. I am happy to report that she is in perfect health, with the physique of an Olympic athlete. Our vet could not have been more pleased with how well she is doing. Looks like trail life agrees with her.