jupiterhikes

Life of the Wanderlust

Category: Uncategorized (page 2 of 4)

Slowly But Surely

​Day 2 / 36 MI / Eglin to Holland Rd

I was woken up at 4am by the sounds of something very large russling in the bushes. Naturally, all my days food was sprawled out next to where I slept. A bear? No, I see a headlamp. It’s 3 night hikers. But I’m camped way off trail? Oh yeah, I’m sleeping on Airforce Base land. Actively used for drills, and training. Well they found me. I was definitely seen. I stayed as still as possible, and they left me alone, continuing on into the night. Very lucky! I’ve heard of folks being run off the Airforce base. You see, I was supposed to get a permit, and I didn’t. Don’t be me.

Waking up again at 7, packing up, and moving by 7:30. The west Eglin section is very beautiful. Lots of moss litters the ground, like mint colored sponge balls. A bridge over a perfectly clear creek fills my water for the next so many miles. Followed by a long string of bog logs protecting my shoes and socks from the swampy ground.

A boat, no where near water lays beside the trail. Plants now growing out of it. A lot of folks seem to ditch trash in the woods (pls dont) but who ditches their boat?

Moving forward I cross the very busy hwy 87, and make my way on the otherside. The trail parallels the road for quite a ways, many miles, eventually dumping me back on it. Somewhere in the middle I found a very recently used smoke bomb. Not your phantom fireworks smoke bomb, one of military grade. A memento? Naw I gotta stop picking up stupid shit. Sometimes I collect things I find, then I don’t know what to do with it.

Something cool, near a loop trail in Eglin are very deep ravines. I turned a corner, and it almost looked like I was in the mountains again! Walking along the small cliff, looking across to the other hills in the distance.

Leaving the woods for the road again, at the yellow river bridge there’s a ton of construction going on. A very fall fence, topped with barbed wire blocks my way. What are they keeping out? Me? The reroute is veery unclear, just a couple orange ribbons, that I thought might be from the road work. I skated passed some wetlands, and scaled rocks that took me up to the bridge and around the fence.

Highway walking, turned Into neighborhood walking. Every house looked thee exact same all the way down the line. Kind of disgusting. The roadwalk wasn’t as long as I thought it we would be, and I re entered the woods. By this time I must have not been paying attention to my nutrition because I was fresh out of brain power!! Still, only one thing to do. Keep moving forward.

The trail got a little swampy and wet here, I slowed down, and kept careful to save my feet figuring I wouldn’t run into anymore wetness the rest of the day. Soon I passed the blue blazed trail that leads to the blackwater section, and the Alabama border! Hey! That’s how I got here in the first place, and now I’ve yoyoed this last section. So from here on its all new trail to me! Not just that but I’m told it’s new trail to everybody! Recently the FTA managed to take a very large chunk of walking off the road, and put it in the woods here. This makes me rly happy. It’s progress! I got mad love for the Florida trail, so to see it getting better in time is very cool. What will 5 years from now change?

This new section is extremely beautiful! Crossing many creeks, most of which had logs to walk over on, although I did have to ford one. Overall I really like the chosen route for this new path, but as of now it’s still a bit overgrown! I made it through but not without cutting my legs up. I love my shorts…… but sometimes. I guess I just need to toughen up my legs? Every 2 out of 3 steps was right into some crazy thorny vine. Barbs grabbing my legs, and being ripped off the plant to join me in my journey south. I’d rub my thighs, and feel the little plant matter. Despite this! I still really enjoyed the new section. Far better than any roadwalk, and all in all just needs a wee bit of mowing 🙂

I walked the last 2 miles of that section in the dark. Then it was a dirt backroad. Immediately some guy in a truck fish tails around the corner, then the next, and I’ll assume the one after that too. Looked like fun, glad he didn’t hit me.

Dirt turned to asphalt, I crossed under a highway, and eventually made it to the small city of Holt. Wouldn’t ya know it, a truck whips ahead of me and pulls off the road. I approach and it’s a new friend!! Sean, I had met him just a few days ago on my way from Alabama to Pensacola on the Blackwater section. He was out backpacking that day with his lady friend, and we nerded out over hiking a bit. Super cool to run into him a second time!

I walked maybe another 3 or so miles, and stopped at 8:40pm. I was drained. I definitely needed to eat more today, and I think that, combined with the minor bushwhacking in that last section slowed me down.

I sleep alongside a railroad, just past Holt, near Holland rd. Slowly, but surely finding my groove. I’ve been relaxing too long!!! Blown away I only walked 36 today. Felt like more. Too many hiccups 🙂

Florida Trail FKT Attempt – Day 1!

​Day 1 / 34mi / Fort Pickens to Eglin

Woah woah wait I haven’t updated this blog since I was in virginia… well, I’m now 1,000 miles further down the east coast, and 3,400 total miles into my sobo Eastern Continental Trail thru hike. Frankly, I don’t have the words to describe finishing the Appalachian Trail (91 days w/ 14 zeros,) hiking the Benton Mackaye Trail to the Pinhoti, or my very long roadwalk thru Alabama(175miles) to the FT. I will come back to this. Don’t think I haven’t forgotten!! I just need some time to process, and reflect.

So how what am I up to? Attempting the self supported Florida Trail speed record! For those that know me, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time, and even planned for it before I left for Canada 5 months ago.

Rules for a self supported record are as such. I cant, and won’t accept any outside help. No magic, and no vehicle support. Im sorry! I know folks who wanted to trail magic me, but how about this! Come see me if you can find me, and we can chit chat, and i can make my way. I wont accept any assistance, but i would really love to see you!! Youre helping just by witnissing that yep, bes out there doing it! Documentation is a big deal, so witnesses are a good thing. In that same vein i will also be back to doing daily reports on my happenings, on this blog. Yay!!

A huge shout out to Joe Kisner who came before me and did a speedy hike of this trail some years ago. Hes been a big inspiration to me, and it is now my honor to hike his hike, and go after hus record. 29 days is what he laid down. Im aiming for three weeks. Only time will tell.

Today I begin to realize the dream. After being hosted by the kindest of trail angels in Pensacola so I could recharge, and evidently wait out a cold front, I started my hike south from the northern terminus at Fort Pickens today at 10:23am EST.

First, Coy, my angel, deserves a medal. He was super awesome, and helped me in every way possible to prepare for this hike.

Second, the Florida Trail is frickin amazing. I’m so happy to be here! Back in my homestate, back with my peoples.

I was dropped off at the fort, took my obligitory photos with the last blaze, and the new termini monument, that was litterally just installed by the FTA. After noting my start time, I began walking.

The trail winded away from the termini on a hard packed sandy trail, through an RV park, and past some historical stone structures. Eventually crossing the main road, and dumping me onto the beach. I didnt see anymore blazes but there was only ome way to go. So I walked the coastlime east. Through the sand, right along the Gulf of Mexico. It couldnt have been a more perfect day. Not too hot, not too cold, just right so that I could wear my puffy jacket.

Making my way through the sand was strenuous but i havent seen the ocean since i started this hike in Quebec, and thus i was happy. Being a floridian, and living near the water all my life i had missed it. Somewhere here I saw what I thought was a beached whale… my eyesight is poor at a distance. I was sad. But then it revealed itself to be a capsized boat! All was good again.

The beach walking ended and the blazes showed up again to take me through a really hoppin’ section of the Pensacola beach. Very developed. A roadwalk of sorts, but with a twist! Porto-johns everywhere! What luck. Typically I gotta hide!

After so many miles of sidewalk the developments stopped, and i enterred the national seashore again. The trail took a hard left, and took me on a ride thru lands of beautiful sand dunes. Up, over, and around them. I loved it!!! The pure white sand with all the beach foliage casting long shadows is magical. If i were taking this slower i certainly would have stopped to camp! The terrain was less shifty here too. Easier walking than the last beach, i assume because of all the plants. I followed pvc pipes with orange blazes painted on them that stuck out of the ground for miles. Witnessing some kids having a sandfight even. Like a snowball fight, but floridian.

This too had to end, the trail once again crossed the main road (theres only one,) and left me on the beach looking for trail markers. Nothing, so i followed the coast towards Navarre. Buildings behind me slipping away, while new ones ahead pop up. Here i alternated between the beach and the road. When i got tired of one, id walk the other! And visa versa. Stopping once to jump in the ocean. It was cold, but i knew id regret not doing it, being i wont have this opprotunity again for another 1,100+ miles.

At sunset i finished the beachwalk and entered the city of Navarre. Trail turned to bike path, day turned to night. I figured id walk till 9pm at least. Hiking this time of year is difficult because the sun sets so early! I barely have 11hrs. So for this record attempt i suspect ill be walking in the dark a lot. Actually i know i will, i plan to! Sunrise is 7am, sunset is 6pm.

In the dark i follow the road, eventually taking me to a bridge that gets me back to the main land. While crossing the bay, a man in his vehicle whipped a u-turn, and stopped. He yelled out asking if i was hiking the FT. I am! How cool, hes a former Appalachian Trail thru hiker, among other things. We talked for a little while, het offered to take me to dinner, and i declined the kind offer. It was great to run into a fellow thru hiker! Most folks just stare like im homeless. Even if i was, chill out, were humans too. After the bridge, and a few more miles of road through the city, and im back in the woods. I sleep tonight at the Eglin Airforce Base permit kiosk. Rather, just passed it.

So today was 34 miles of walking. Im proud of that considering i started close to 10:30. A good warmup. I hope this will be my lowest milage day on the FT.

Having lots of fun so far! Love the FT, and loved the sand dunes!!! Most folks would split this day into two, and camp in those dunes. They’d be wiser than I!

Jup

Review: Pa’lante Packs Simple Backpack

This year I’ve had the great pleasure to carry a new pack!

For my thru hike of the 4,800mi Eastern Continental Trail, I took a chance on a new company, and purchased the Simple by Pa’lante Packs. They weren’t in production yet, but I had been seeing photos of it online. Similar to the pack I had been using for the last few years, but an improved design.

“Hey that thing looks awesome, take my money.” Is to my memory, the message I sent Andy Bentz. He mailed it out to me while I was on trail, and I received it the same day I picked up a very heavy resupply (6 days.) Immediately I was stoked on how comfortable it was, even while carrying 15lbs of food on top of my gear.

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Grabbing a snack from the secret bottom compartment

Andy Bentz and John Zahorian are the two founders of Pa’lante Packs. Some info on Andy’s making history can be seen in this cute video, showing packs he’s made in days past, leading up to what you see now in this final product!

Since receiving it I’ve now carried it for the last 2,800 miles, and this is what I think about it.

Basic Info

  • Volume: 35L or 40L
  • Price: $210 – $250
  • Weight: 13oz
  • Frameless and Hipbeltless
  • Material: X-Pac

Where can you find it? PalantePacks.com

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Size

They come in both a 35 liter, and 40 liter. Very low on internal volume, but in a world where ultralight backpacking is becoming more popular this is a perfect size. The bigger the backpack you buy, the more stuff you tend to fill it with, and then consequently have to haul up that mountain!

For me, with a 6lb base weight the 35L is just right. I’ve carried 6 days food in it without issue, even thinking I had room for more. I would go for this size if you’re looking to seriously nerd out on gear, for most everyone though, I think the bigger size might be wiser. If you’re unsure, definitely go for the larger 40L. You’ll be happy you did when you want to pack out bonus foods from town!

As a frameless, hipbeltless pack it does well. The shoulder straps are large enough with enough thickness to take the heat of heavier carries. I find it’s comfortable up until around 25lbs.

All in all the small size is something I really like in a backpack. It gives me the ability to maneuver freely.
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Durability

Amazingly, after 5 months of use every single day. Sleeping on it. Rubbing it against, and sitting it on rocks. Brushing it against trees and branches accidentally…. there isn’t a single hole, not a single tear, or even any real sign of wear. Even the stitching is holding up, without fraying or coming loose. It’s almost the same as when I first got it.

When it comes to durability most consider ultralight gear flimsy or that it won’t last. In the case of this pack that is clearly not true! I could easily get a second multi thousand mile thru hike out of this pack.

I had remembered seeing pictures John posted online when he first came up with this design. I was skeptical about the bottom pocket, and it’s durability. After 2,800 miles of abusing it without a single hole forming I’m convinced. The east coast is very rocky, Maine and New Hampshire are no cake walk, so to come out unscathed was really impressive, and admittedly surprising.

I give it a big thumbs up for durability! Unlike cuben fiber packs this X-Pac material is gunna last. I expect I’ll get another few thousand miles outa this one, at least.

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Design

  • Waterproofness: The fabric used for the body of the pack is waterproof, but overall water will get in the seams. So I still use an internal liner like a trash compactor bag.
  • Single strap top closure: I love the single strap! It sinches down so nicely, creating an excellent seal. The last pack I had before this used a Y strap, and I greatly prefer the single.
  • Shoulder strap pockets: One of my favorite features of this pack. The stretchy integrated shoulder strap pockets! I like that I have everything I need right at my fingertips. These pockets are perfect for a camera or phone, snacks, guidebook pages or maps, trash. Really handy, and sleek. I highly recommend getting them added to your pack, as they are optional.
  • Secret bottom pocket: Annnd my favorite feature is the bottom pocket. Large enough to fit almost an entire days worth of food. But why do you care? Because every time you’re hungry, you can just reach under and grab a snack! No need to stop. Just keep moving! Alternatively, keep a rain jacket, or wind jacket under there for quick access.
  • Aesthetics: I mean, it’s super cute. Really small. Black. Beautiful. Clean.
  • Side pockets: Good height to grab my water bottles while walking. Stretchy enough to hold two bottles in one pocket. Or as I often do my umbrella, and a water bottle. Or my rehydration jar, and a water bottle. Tight enough so that they  don’t slip out when jostled.
  • Shoulder straps: Comfortable width, shape, and thickness.
  • Draw cord compression: Unsure of what to call it, but it needs to be mentioned. On one side of the pack there’s a small cord that can be pulled tight, to either compress down loose space inside, or firmly secure an item there. Personally I use it most when I have wet socks, or to dry out a wet groundcloth. Sinch the item down, and let it sit outside your pack all day. Or if you’re looking for a place to stow away trekking poles or a trekking umbrella while not in use, this is it!

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Extra Thoughts

John has used this pack for thousands of miles, and I’ve used this pack for almost 3,000 miles. He loves it, I love it. I hate to gush er whatever, but of all the gear I’ve been using this year, this pack is the only thing I wouldn’t swap out if given the chance. Since leaving Canada and receiving this pack, its been wonderful all the way down to Florida.

It’s made for efficiency. Most everything you need during the day is at hand, and I love that. So until these boys come up with something similar but smaller and lighter this will remain my main hiking pack.

The waterproof material, the clever pockets, a pack that won’t deteriorate after a single season…

So if you’re looking for that perfect backpack for your next thru hike, the Simple from Pa’lante has treated me right.

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No need for dreaming

Arriving in the city of Gorham was immediately sobering. No longer am I in tiny podunk Maine towns, here they have a Subway! Among 4 or 5 pizza restaurants, and other garbage, but that’s besides the point! Maine had been difficult. Some tall mountains, steep climbs, and weird footing, but looking up at the White Mountains surrounding this new space was new. These things are massive. Towering well beyond the clouds. Towering well beyond what I immediately felt like climbing.

So I didnt. I checked my guide and chose a hostel most central to all the food in town. As I’ve learned I could mostly care less about shower or laundry, it’s about the food and electricity for me. Can’t say I’m exactly out here to be clean beyond avoiding chafe, and illness associated with being dirty. Typically I wash myself in streams, and my clothing does indeed suffer for some time with the occasional swim to remove salts and things, or shave my face with river water.

This hostel was mostly a dump. Outlets falling out of the walls, sticky floor, not exactly ideal. I’m not too picky but it left me wishing I had flipped that coin a little differently. However there was one thing special about this particular hiker paradise…. one of my hiking hero’s had stayed here during his legendary hike of 1998. Nimblewill Nomad is his name, and that hike being what I’m doing now. 4,800 miles from Quebec to Key West. But north to south instead of the other way around. This is the second time I’ve had this has happened to me now. Day 0 of this trip I stayed in the last hostel Nimble had stayed at after he finished his long and lonesome journey. It’s like I’m following in his footsteps, as well as the very few others to ever do this hike. About 20 folks in 20 years if you’re wondering. This year, I’m the only one still at it.

After a nights rest and a lesson from a local in the methods in which tobacco is farmed I decided since I just finished walking close to 500 miles through Maine, I’ll treat myself to a night somewhere hopefully more enjoyable. My second stay was at a bed & breakfast, but not really. Next door the owner has a barn that’s been converted into a hiker hostel, and this place truly is a paradise. Clean, beautiful, wonderful, and full of awesome hikers to chit chat with! A good decision. Or a dangerous game to get caught up in these towns. Am I out here to hike? I am, but it’s often very refreshing to stop now or then. Even though I’ve been fooling around a lot more than I should, as it turns out I’m still going rather fast. I still feel I’m on track to meet my goal and that’s what counts!

Regardless of my mixed feelings towards staying in towns longer than it takes to charge my phone I’m happy I did this time. A beautiful girl by the name of Weebles was there who’s  heading in the same direction I am, is a vegetarian, and all around super cool person. We talked for a while, and although I was staying another night she was heading out that day. Late though. 6pm. Maybe she was considering staying longer. The company and conversation was much appreciated.

The next day I find myself in the same situation. About ready to declare residence, thunder and rain imminent that night. Another stay in doors would be nice, but no! See ya soon Weebles. 6pm I myself leave. Figuring I can walk the 3 miles out of town back to the trail, and hike in the dark until 10 or 11 at night. I make the trail and the thunder and lightning begins to crash. Blackness paused briefly by the entire forest filling with light, quickly fading again. On and on this went until the rain began to fall. Coming up on some other hikers who were huddled under a wooden shelter away from the weather. They look at me with my tiny umbrella like a dog might in confusion. Head cocked. Questioning where I’m camping in this rain. Wherever I please! Although I didn’t feel like climbing the next mountain in such conditions I have no issue setting up my shelter or sleeping on days like this. Back home this is weather I’d seek out to go backpacking in. All those trips of the past paying off, although I’m still learning so much more out here it’s of a different variety. Rain and thunder just doesn’t bother me. As I’ve always said. No one ever dies by getting struck by lightning….

Slippery rocks, beautiful swimming holes, and finally… the White Mountains. This first climb the next morning came easier than expected. On the way I passed a couple that recognized me (which was funny!) and I took the opprotunity to ask how far ahead my friend was. The girl had a large smile that echoed of withheld information, and what I heard was that if I hustled I might catch up! But also that she was leaving the trail for a week to go explore the east coast then return to these mountains again to continue on. I had hoped she would want to hike with me, but I can at least wish her a farewell.

The miles came quick, and for the first half of the day I was pressing over peaks covered in clouds, buffeted by wind. At the higher elevations here its truly hit or miss. I figure you could time the peaks well to get the view or you can enjoy the experience for what it is. I always choose the latter, and I always have a good time! Descending the mountain I’m greeted by my first hut of this area, a premier and unique feature to these mountains installed to gather revenue, and help more folks experience these places. My first hut of many, a system that stretches through the whites, and the whites only. Buildings filled with bunks, a kitchen, dinning area, and typically very far away from where the typical person could access without some serious effort. Ya know, walking here! They all offer food, coffee, and other things. I had a great experience with them, even though I heard many stories of other hikers having a bad time. I think in their case it’s because they’re maybe more so the party hiker. More so party, less so hiker. The hut employees most definitely do cater more towards those who put in hard days (whatever that means respective to the person.)

These huts and this mountain range was actually a large source of stress for me before I left for my trip. As you may know, I planned and more or less virtually hiked this whole thing before I even started. Months and years of planning and preperations. It’s a big trip man…. a project as some say. Anyhow. I hike my hike, and I like to do each day my way. The huts I heard somewhere that it was mandatory you stayed in them. Which will run you $160 a night, or you could show up at 5 pm and try to convince them to let you work off your impending debt persay. The later being extremely common, but you know me!! 5pm is just to darn early. So I worried. Could I camp anywhere secretly? The weather here is known to be the worst in the entire country. Seriously. Look up Mt Washington wind speeds. 100+ is common, and I think 280mph or so is the world record… set there, right on the trail I was walkin’. You can see why this area might have been a small question mark. As it turns out, not once in the Whites did I do a work for stay in the huts. I camped every night, and it worked out great!! Some might say I missed an experience, but I did actually stop one day and really got to know one of the employees who was planning his own thru hike for next year. I feel I missed nothing!

Looking back I think that first day, over the Wildcat range, looking for Weebles, that was the hardest day I remember. It was 21 miles or something but multiple really steep climbs, and even steeper descents. Hard both on my lungs and joints. In Gorham I remember hikers who had just done this section icing their knees. I can see why, but I’m happy to report that I have no soreness or pain after doing any of that.

But wait, did I ever catch Weebles? I did. I had this image in my head for some reason of her getting to the next road and instantly departing. So with that in mind I moved swiftly up and over rocks. Brushing my teeth on the go, and as I put my scrubber in my pocket there she was. “HI! :D” although hesitent of this weird guy I did get to hike with her. About 2 miles worth. Still much time left in the day I had the option to go on, but as it turned out she wasn’t leaving until the next day. Boston bound, then back to experience the rest of this awesome section of trail. My options weren’t really options at all. Hesitent again, I’m glad she let me camp with her. We talked again, and apparently she had thought I was ahead of her and actually asked that same couple about me as I did her.

The next morning I made my way up into the great unknown. My best day on trail so far. One big climb and I was above treeline walking an exposed ridge almost all day. I thought of her quite a bit that day. What a happy day. The kind of day you just smile from ear to ear about. Remember Mt Washignton? That was this day, the second highest peak on the trail. Wind and harsh weather? I got lucky and it was totally clear and calm. I made 26 easy, happy miles that day, and camped under a “no camping” sign at a waterfall.

Although I didn’t get so lucky with clouds and weather for the rest of my time during the Whites I still had the most amazing time. The walking was fun and enjoyable. Just kind of the stuff I dream about. Open ridge lines with wind in my face, above everything, pressing forward with glee. I actually get to do this every day. It really is a dream for me.

I did however do some questionable things. I climbed Mt Lafayette and walked Franconia Ridge at night for example. A 5,000+ peak and a ridgeline that follows. For those that know this area well that’s a big no no. It’s known to be exceptionally beautiful, and here I got to see it in the dark. It was still a whole lot of fun!! But certainly not something most would do on purpose. I actually had this grand idea of catching that section during sunset, and having this ultimate experience. Not everything goes as planned!! Up in a cloud, in the dark, with my handheld 70 lumen flashlight. All the more reason to come back sometime.

Mt Moosilauke is the final 4,000+ foot Mountain that I’ll have to climb for a very long time. It also marks the end of the White Mountains. I was actually dreading it as I approached. Feeling a bit under the weather the last thing I felt like doing was walking up some massive hill! But ya know I was so happy I did. Getting to the top was such an amazing experience. Up in the clouds as always, I ran as fast as I could across the rocks on the top to the sign marking the summit. Phone as dead as ever I had some other hiker take my photo and send it to me. Big thanks to him!! This peak also marks roughly my 1/4th way point! 1,200 miles down, just 3,600 to go. Sounds silly but to me it sounds so attainable. Just one step at a time, one mile, one day. All in time!! You really can do anything if you set your mind to it. Sometimes it just takes a bit of love.

My next town stop was unplanned but there was a hostel that was only 0.3 miles off trail and a friend VERY graciously offered to pay for my stay there. Due to my sickly condition, one night turned into three. This friend remained firm in that I would pay for none of which. I really can’t thank him enough. I really needed the days off. Snot flowing freely from my nose, a soar throat, and a fuzzy head makes for much less than fun hiking. The hostel turned out to be really great too, aside from just a place to rest. The owner and caretaker, as well as an employee all happen to be extremely experienced hikers. I love hikers!! It was so cool to talk to some people who really have been around and done that. Maybe you wonder what I think about while I spend my day walking. Often my mind wanders to the topic of other trails. So here was my opprotunity to geek out about trails, as well as recover. Thanks again to a good friend back home. I would have passed up that place of refuge had he not offered. Really glad to have stayed, really glad to be back on the trail again with a clear mind.

I actually got to meet a serious trail legend during my stay there as well. The famous Miss Janet! A lady who tirelessly helps hikers all year round on this particular 2,200 mile stretch of trail from Georgia to Maine. I had thought I might have been too late in the season to run into her but as it turns out she’s giving the north bound hikers that final little push before winter hits, then she’ll head back down south to meet up with my crowd. Really I have no idea how she does this year after year. I would certainly lose my mind!!! But I guess you gotta love it. For me the hiking is where my heart lies. For her, it’s helping folks like me achieve these goals.

After Mt Moosilauke the terrain changed drastically. Although I’m still in NH I consider this Vermont already. Like day and night, suddenly the trail is just SO much easier. It’s awesome. I can finally open my stride and walk like I wanna. Maine and New Hampshire were very beautiful and both a great challenge, but I’m ready for more!

If you’re keeping count I only have 14 more states to go, and they’re getting smaller as I go. Aside from Virginia, Alabama, and Florida that is.

As I write I’m planning my attack for Vermont. I begin tomorrow. It’s about 150 miles worth of trail and I’m thinking 5 days at most.

This is life!

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I get up, and I walk

If I’ve remembered correctly I’ve now been in maine for over 450 miles. Well, I’ve actually just finished Maine! What a state. What a big state. The AT itself only goes through 280 or so miles of it but as we know I started walking from lands very far north of there. Very far north of the Canadian border even. What a hell of a ride it’s been so far, and boy is it nice to cross a new border. New Hampshire! I’m here! I’ve made it! Looking at a map of my progress thus far is very surreal. To see that I’ve traveled over 1,200 miles south so far feels good. That line I’ve drawn on a map from Quebec to the Keys represents so much. All of those that have traveled it before me, everything in between, and an unimaginable amount of experiences to be had. I’m not even a fourth of the way into my walk and yet I’ve met so many wonderful people, and seen so many magical things. I’ve come this far, there’s no stopping now. There’s a story before me waiting. From the very start there was no stopping. A sprained ankle wasn’t an excuse to quit, it was an excuse to try harder. Reform my technique, and pay closer attention to myself. To be more consistent, and to not allow myself to let the fire dictate where I land. My body is king, and this journey is long. My pace is fast, but with every day I learn. Including all my planning and preperations, there never was quit in me. There is only a footpath before me, and a fire inside me. Today I walk, and with every step I get closer to that dream of key west. An almost laughable dream. To walk 100 or so miles of roads through the southern most point of Florida. The dream is engraved in my brain. I may not think of it daily, but the thought appears often. I cower almost to the point of crying. One step at a time. I’m on my way.

Since I finished the International Appalachian Trail and started the Appalachian Trail I’ve had people tell me how difficult the terrain in maine is. How this mountain would crush my will. I’ve been both shot down and lifted up when mentioning my goal. I almost question now if I should even bother, so I typically just respond with “I’m going all the way.” Now that I’ve finished this long and lonesome track through Maine I’ve concluded that none of those passes were nearly as hard as I was told. In the end their experience reflects more about them, than the actual trail. I’ve concluded that really only the final 10 or so miles of this state are of any real concern. Boulders that dwarf men, trail resembling something closer to a creek bed, and an endless supply of roots. The walking has been arduous. Like dancing in many more ways than walking. I step around, I step over, I step on top of, and a couple times I’ve even gone under rocks. Rocks of all sizes and shapes. Difficult? Maybe not so much, a slight annoyance? I’d say that’s more so the case. A man with long legs who likes to stretch them I’ve slowed my miles. From 30s and beyond down to 20s. Soon though, my big days will return.

Although still doing more than most per day it’s been very comfortable. It’s all a matter of time. 2 miles per hour? Less? Wake up earlier. Stop walking and set up camp later. My rule is, don’t stop until 7:30. The beginning of sunset. Beyond that and I find myself walking in the dark. As I often do. 7:30 is only the time in which I allow myself to start looking for camp. I have however broken that rule a couple times. Town stops when I’m hungry and tired, the Kennebec River where I needed a ferry man to cross it(two lovely ladies out birding picked me up and took me across!), or that time I met a cool New Zealander going by the trail name “Bad Decisions.” His bad decision that day was deciding to walk with me the next day. 20 miles, multiple passes, and the hardest terrain in Maine. Locals just out for the day told me that my plan before dark was out of question. I walked away, took my new friend with me, and we did it anyway. Live free or die. I’ll only ask for the weather from now on.

That section was the Mahoosuc Arm, and the Mahoosuc Notch. I’ve heard horror storries. Supposedly the Notch is the hardest, or most fun section of the AT. Most fun is indeed true. It was a jungle gym. Everyone I asked that day said it took them 2 hours. About 20 people that was. It only took us 50 minutes with a stop for water and photographs. Jumping from boulders, crawling under them into caves, climbing up and around them. It was awesome. The Arm however we went down. It was a 2,000ft decent purely on a sheer rock face, slick as can be. One slip and you’d be in trouble. Going down still is in my mind the way easier method of doing it. Going up would have been endless. Step up, slide down. I was happy to only be sliding down. Often on my ass.

There’s three seriously memorable moments I’ll have of the AT in Maine and that’s Saddleback mountain, the knife edge trail on Mt Katahdin, and the Mahoosuc Notch. We’ve already looked at the knife edge, a thin ridge of sharp rocks connecting peaks. Saddleback Mountain however is new! It was a recent climb, and I was fortunate enough to enjoy it with a good dude I met out here by the name of 2Taps. The weather was strange, forecast showed rain for the morning, and then clear skies all day. This was not the case. The rain was true but that was followed by extremely high winds. Most hikers hid in the lean-to shelters that litter the trail but 2Taps and I pressed forward. The climb was wet and slippery up rocks, eventually breaking out from treeline. The wind pressed against us as we entered the alpine territory. Beautiful sweeping views of the mountains around us and the lakes below us. I remember some saying about Maine and lakes. Whatever that is, it’s true. They really are everywhere here, and I frequently find myself navigating around them, or sitting on their beaches. This time though I’m fortunate enough to be looking down at them from an exposed ridge. For three miles this lasted. Walking across the rock face on top of the world, with the wind knocking me from side to side frequently pushing me into the grass. We were told it was 74mph and that was still walkable in my opiniom, but at a slant. Feet planted firmly and still being forced aside or simply to walk with a serious lean. It was cold, but wonderful. That mountain I would do over and over. We were the only two out there that day.

The theme is clear. I wake up, and I walk. Every morning I pack all of my things up and I move forward. I aim for 20 or 30 and see where I land. Sometimes in the rain, sometimes the sun, and sometimes up in the clouds, but it doesn’t matter. I’ll still be out there. Getting wet, sweating, breathing, sun beating, low visibility, high visibility. I’m out here day after day. And it’s wonderful.

Since I’m doing 20 or more miles a day I don’t often or ever see folks more than once and that may be a downside but I love the path I’m on and really wouldn’t change anything. I’d like to do more per day if I could but that will come in time, with more experience, and with easier terrain to walk upon. I’ve met a lot of awesome people, and one benefit is that I’m never in the same bubble of folks. I get to see everyone! Maybe by the end, someone will be foolish enough to hike my hike, but that’s not what this is about. Everyone is on their own path, and doing their own thing.

I camp alone almost every night so I only really get to know other hikers in towns. On trail most congregate around the wooden shelters, but I find the land surrounding them uncomfortable and overused, opposed to the soft bed of leaves or pine needles I usually wind up in. Staying inside the wooden huts would be nice in the rain but if I think the ground around them is bad then I would certainly find the wooden flooring worse. Not to mention the mice that have grown accustomed to the trash left behind or the tidbits of food that spill. My little havens alone in the woods off trail just seem more appealing most nights.

Two towns I’ve stayed in recently left a mark. Monson, and Rangely. In Monson I was pleasent surprised to find that Petes Place, a local restaurant caters to vegans with black bean burgers. More interesting the owners have ridden horses from maine to southern texas. They did it for charity and it took over 8 months. Certainly a very unique experience and it was nice to talk to them about it. I stayed the night in the local hostel, The Shaws. Forever will I hold other hostels to a bar the Shaws have set. The owners Poet and Hippy Chick where amazing and former thru hikers. The help was awesome, the beds comfortable, everything there was nice. In a town without more food than a grocery store they also have a full stock of things hikers like. Poet was or is an English teacher, I’d like to say high school AP, and he even recited to us a poem in old english. Basically another language is what he was speaking.
Rangely is the other town that stood out, but it wasn’t the town… I actually didn’t even go into town. I walked 0.3 miles down the road off trail to The Hiker Hut. A hostel that operates off the grid. No electricity, no cell service. It was a restful and relaxing place next to a stream. I showed up very late and felt quite bad about it but they fed me a vegan dinner, vegan breakfast, and I was the only one there. I sat and talked with the two owners for hours. Steve was a professional triathlete back in the mid 90s and might have even raced in the Tour De France once. Like me, he sees hiking as a sport, treating it the same way you would long distance running or anything else similar. Some go for just 5 or 10 miles a day and that’s cool but he could tell that’s not my game. I’m out here to walk, and he had some very good advice for me which I’ll take to heart. Maine and New Hampshire could be injury central for me, and I suppose the gist of what spoke to me was that I should take it easy until I reach Vermont when the trail eases up. Easy for me is 20 so that’s what I’ve been up to, and I’ve been feeling great! So I think it’s working. The Hiker Hut and The Shaws were both wonderful places to stay, and should I ever hike the Appalachian Trail again I will certainly make my rounds to see these great people again. They really give off the vibe like they want to help you achieve your goal, unlike some others that seem far more money hungry. That vibe meant a lot to me.

So now I’m in New Hampshire. It’s been a long time coming, and although I loved Maine I’m really excited for what this new place will bring. Crossing the border the change was very apparent. The trail is marked slightly different. The way it’s routed is different, and the mountains ahead are promised to be some of the most beautiful this path has to offer. We shall see! Im really looking forward to the White Mountains. For now I can only hope I hit them during nice weather. Or else I’ll cry… or not, I’ll probably just keep on walking.

Oh and I’ve decided to keep clean shaven, because every guy out here looks the exact same as every other guy out here.

“If it ain’t fun, make it fun.”

– Jupiter

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Weebles wobble….

Day 14thru26 – The USA Calls

When I left you last, dear reader, I had just finished walking through Gaspesie National Park and entered the Matane Wildlife Reserve. After being warned three times about this new section of trails extreme difficulty I was very skeptical. You’d think by the third time I’d believe it. Well I probably should have.

I keep a small personal journal somedays, just quick notes to later recall greater detail later. Well my first day in Matane, day 14 of this trip goes like this:

Aiming for 48k, it was clear within the first mile, that was going to be difficult. Boarder line rockclimbing. 13 waterfalls. Stupid steep, welcome to Matane. Was warned, didn’t believe. Demoralizing to see the giant mountains ahead I’m about to climb. Of course it’s not the small gradual ones. Straight up, straight down. Mud, feet soaked, prune/raisins all day. Thunder storm climbing mountain tops, and 6 miles of misery. Start of my day 4am, end of my day 9pm. Few breaks. Darkness. Stretch, protein, food. Do it all over tomorrow. Get me out of Matane.

Bleak? Maybe, but that’s backpacking  sometimes. I was mentally crushed while writing that after such a long day. Rolling into camp just before 9pm, hoping no one was already there, because they certainly would already be sleeping. Stepping up a mountain, sliding back down the slippery rocky sloap. Very arduous movement. Going down was no different. Constant without relief, often overgrown with plants, unable to see my own footing. Wet, and muddy. Seemingly better off to sit on my ass and slide down.

I could, as I do, stay positive and mention how remote and beautiful this section was, as that’s very true. Looking forward at the peaks I was about to scale might have been a harsh reality but looking back seeing everything I had just come across was very rewarding. Right in a line, I could see the ripples in the skin of the earth, all of which I just passed in the same day. During this area I also found a very large moose rack. Easily weighing 10lbs. Very surprising the weight of those things. The lakes as well we’re very special, one specifically comes to mind, Lake Matane of course. One hellish descent followed by an equally as hellish climb, but in the middle of the valley a beautiful cabin in which I stayed the night, and an incredible very massive body of water. The sunrise here was surreal, and of course my phone was dead.

A side note… Andrew Skurka is a very well known long distance hiker (and national geographic dirtbag of the year,) if you don’t know him you really should look up “sea to sea route” or “great western loop.” Both trips well over 5,000 miles long taken by foot, and done extremely fast. This excerpt is taken from his website about the Matane Wildlife Preserve….
“The next contact from Andrew came in the form of a message on the answering machine, “I made it through the Matane Reserve and I am still alive.” As parents, this was an alarming message. He called later in the evening and reported that the Cap-Chats and the Matane Reserve was the most challenging terrain he had ever hiked. The trails go straight up and straight down. He slogged through swamps at 1000-meter high peaks. The rivers were swollen from all the rain and he had to ford where bridges had been washed out. His hands and feet are a mess from all the moisture and the shoes are shot. He did question why the trail had to climb every peak in the Cap-Chats.”

Andrews experience although years before mine is clearly very similar. Fortunately Matane is only a 70 mile section. Very beautiful, but when the walking itself ain’t fun, then I just can’t get down. So how to make the walking fun again? Just one more long day. For me, the forward motion is one of the most enjoyable aspects of long distance hiking. The constant feeling of progress, knowing that youre actually doing something. So naturally when my motion is impeded, I want to break free. So I did. 70 miles in 2 and a half days.

Despite the pain and all that, while up on one of those mountains I was looking down at a small lake. Then in that lake I see something. A large object, and then a smaller object. From way above I’m looking down on two moose walking across. A sight I won’t soon forget. Minutes pass and they dissapear into the nearby forest. Questioning, is that where my trail is taking me?

I later ran into another french hiker, who although didn’t know much english, I understood well and clear that she was saying, “Matane is the devil for me.”

I left that area with a gift, the gift of pain in my ankle. Now during this trip I’ve experienced knee pain, ankle pain, all sorts of issues. They all went away eventually. I hoped this would too. 200km later it hasnt, and yes that 200 hurt, and yeah I cried once. But huzzah! I’ve taken a couple days off before I officially enter NB and continue on, letting my body heal, the smart choice to check myself…. although admittedly late. This next stretch is mostly dirt ATV paths (roads) so I would kind of like to not further agrivate, or re injure myself on the hard packed ground, and instead be on my game, ready to enter Maine moving strong.

So what else have we missed? Matane screwed me up mentally, so I kinda fell off the bandwagon with daily blogging. If you have nothing good to say…. so they say….

* I’ve seen a porcupine(first time ever for me!) climbing a tree. I told that fat little guy that I was going to sit there and wait until he came down so I could get a photo. He called my bluff, and after an hour of eating way to many snacks while watching him, and the tree he clung to sway in the breeze… I left. Stubborn they are.

* I’ve been kicked out of a restaurant. I think it’s because I’m American, and probably mostly because I don’t speak french. I had just showered so there’s no other reason I can imagine. They gave me one look and shooed me off. For those that know me, you know I’m pretty friendly, I smile, and all that. It was surprising. However at the next restaurant over the waitress got an extra large tip. I was sure to thank her profusely for dealing with me even though I don’t know the lingo.

* I made friends with a homeless man, as you do. The trail left town and came to a fork, a 5 way fork, with no markings as to which way to go. I see a dirty man with a long beard… my people. We chat a little, and I make my way. An hour later somehow winding right back where I was standing before. The man was still there and we get to talking. As it turns out he lives in these woods. Apparently when he first wandered into the area and found this park he was blown away, and knew instantly that this would be his home. He’s lived there ever since, just outside of the town of Amqui. He actually gave me some directions that led me to where I had missed the trail before, and again I was on my way, but this time on the right path. Homeless people are great, he even offered me a beer which I declined, but it was very nice of him.

* I met three more thru hikers! One of which was a french man with a pack twice the size of his own body. I remarked as a joke after thinking this was the gear of multiple hikers
.. not one, that it’s never to late to start ditching things! As he surveyed all of his stuff that was taking up the entire refuge, he told me everything he has is just too useful. His favorite piece of gear was a pair of mechanics gloves, because “sometimes I’m on my hands and knees hiking this trail!” The other two folks I met I was actually contacted by before I left for my hike, and here they were! Two artists from MontrĂ©al who are hiking the 650km of Quebec and doing a photography project as they go. They’re carrying lots of cool camera equipment, and from the sounds and looks of it are getting a lot of really amazing shots. When they’re done I’ll be sure to share any more info I can get about this. The area up here is really incredible so to have a professional such as Sara and her partner Drew come thru and document it will really be something special. Especially considering so few do this trail, they’re work will be totally unique.

* I’ve finished walking through Quebec! The first, and most difficult part of this trip is over. I’m now 650km into the trail, or 700 if you count the 50k I walked from the airport… to the trail. I always said, if I can survive this section, I can do this whole thing, and peoples, there is no quit in my mind. I did survive, but as you now know, I’m recovering in town before starting again for what is supposed to be an easy 250 miles to Maine. After a couple days here I’m feeling a lot better, and I say tomorrow I’m ready to move on.

* Here in the town of MatapĂ©dia on my last day I meet some folks, they share beer with me, friendship. They are going out on the river with a guide for burgers and ask me to join them but I decline. I just wish to relax! And… get some sort of big veggie dinner across the street. I was hanging out down by the river soaking my legs in the cold water when they started talking to me. This town is known for its salmon and the MatapĂ©dia river which is very large, for my florida folk think the Suwannee River but faster flowing. Then that feeds into the Restigouche! A much larger stream, and it’s kind of this towns name to fame. I figure they get a whole lot of money from tourism because everywhere is plastered about kayaking, canoeing, guided tours, fishing trips, camping, and as it happens less folks know but this is also the trailhead to the beginning of the IAT/SIA which I’ve been hiking. Some colorful folk in this town. Seemingly half speak perfect english, and the other half no english at all. I kind of like it here. Quiet mostly, yet with a train that runs right directly through the center of everything. I love trains, so that actually adds to the fun! So here I am, my guide says free camping, but it’s not, it’s 20 dollars. Not the first time the guide has old information. Sandra! My master guide book friend from home…. again I am reminded of the amazing work you and John do every year to get people information about trails and services.

Anyway, none of the pain I could go through during this trip compares to how much I miss my cat. Seriously Canada has some issues. I’ve only seen two whole cats so far. The USA better have their shit straight, cus I’m going to be there soon, and I need some kitties in my life.

Signing out. Likely I won’t have Internet for a little while. My next 250 or so miles are through New Brunswick and northern Maine. I’ll be getting a new pair of shoes via mail, my 100 mile wilderness food, and rumor has it…. a different backpack. Stay tuned. The Appalachian Trail is quickly approaching.

Oh and…. there is no quitting in thru hiking.

Jupiter
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Day 12 & 13 – Leaving Gaspesie

I come across a woman very late in the day. Strange, mostly because everyone is already in camp by 3 or 4 here. I’m the only one out walking late, even though it’s not dark until 9pm. I ask the prerequisite question, “Are you hiking the SIA?”

No, unfortunately just a long day. I crave other thru hikers now, what’s the trail like ahead? Only they know. Although she tells me of her friend Marie-Anne who is, and how we should be running into each other very soon. This makes me happy.

Sleeping under my tarp for the 3rd time this trip is weird. I really don’t even need a shelter for both the Appalachian Trail and the International Appalachian Trail. Up here there are wooden refuges, and lean-tos every 10-15k, and on the AT there are shelters every 10 miles or so. It’s incredibly convenient. I don’t have to set up anything, I can roll in very late, dump out my things, go to bed, and pick up in the morning takes about 10 minutes to get going again. I’m totally hooked, and really I do love my tarp. These shelters are just so damn nice. No rodents either! Very unlike the AT.

In the morning it’s raining, and sure enough here comes a smiling face. I ask, of course, if he’s hiking the SIA. He is! We share secrets of the trails ahead, since I’m heading in the opposite direction as everyone else this works perfect. He is now the second person to tell me that Matane, the wilderness area I’m heading into, is BRUTAL. I still am reluctant to believe for whatever reason.

Moving on, the rain still falling, I seek refuge in a shelter to dry my feet a little. Moving on again, the wind picks up, and the clouds roll in. I can no longer see very far in front of me, but here again comes two folks. Still in Gaspesie but on the very outer edge at this point it’s unlikely, in this weather, and this place, that they’re just out for a couple days. Sure enough, they two are hiking the SIA.

It’s a father and daughter, and I’m not sure the dad speaks english because me and his girl are trying to exchange words and he keeps motioning to keep moving. As if they’ll find another hiker ahead to get this valuable info from. Maybe he just thought I was crazy. In this storm all I’ve got out currently is my tiny umbrella. They on the other hand, rain pants, rain jackets, and pack covers. Maybe I am crazy.

The dad wins and they leave me. I figure it’s time I get out my poncho before I reach the top of the mountain and it’s really bad.

The wind picks up again, and I’m pressing forward to the peak, questioning again my sanity. Poncho now blowing every which way, although still managing to keep my dry and warm. Yelling into the storm like a true madman, grinning ear to ear. Reaching the top, only to find its somewhat of a dangerous ridgewalk. I crouch lower, and plant my feet down, making my way past the edge, catching my breath again as I come across little patches of total mangled trees. The wind made them this way. I’m to stubborn to let the wind do the same to me.

Naturally this isn’t the end, as I cross more talus like the other day, up and up. Following cairns. Any other trail marker that had been installed up here is long since destroyed. Remembering a friend telling me about the amazing views off these mountains. I wouldn’t know, it’s all white.

Eventually leaving Gaspesie the trail finally goes down. I made it. No longer up in the clouds, no longer is the wind trying to blow me away. The trail is now straight down, without relief. I’m now in Matane. It’s now time to see if what I’ve been told is true. Will this be the most harrowing section of the International Appalachian Trail?

Arriving at my campsite for the night, it’s 8:30 and I scare some love birds who almost look as though they’re living in a tent here. Big cooler full of food, bags full of food. A coffee press. Everything. And no offer to me. Oh well. Beans for dinner again.

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My phone was mostly dead for the next couple days, I apologize for the lack of photos.

Day 11 – Moose & Squirrel

Sending a package to Canada from the US is really expensive. Maybe 50 dollars extra, it’s hard to remember. Nonetheless it had to be done. I won’t see a town for another 140miles.

The desk clerk at the visitor center looks me over, and says I’m the first thru hiker of the season to come through. Taking me down into the depths of their basement I’m worried. I sent all sorts of shit in this package to another country that you’re definitely not supposed to send. Batteries, multiple different kinds of liquids, unmarked bags of strange substances. Was I being brought to the arms of an officer or has everything gone smoothly?

My package is in good shape, and I’m happy to see it again. Food from home. Dehydrated fruits, and plenty of things I’ve been missing.

I do some quick calculating and figure I can hang out and try to charge my phone for another hour and still make the distance I want. A young family gets talking to me, and I mention that shortly I have to leave, otherwise I won’t have time to for 20 more miles today. They’re astonished, but I smile. I’ve already gone 5, it’s just a matter of time.

Making my way through a sea of tourists, this mountain is much harder to climb. Massive, fast flowing rivers, a result of snow melt I’m sure. Plenty of water in the form of lakes, and water falls as well. Bridges over streams, and large boulders to traverse.

There is almost no trail here, it’s just rocks. Hopping from one to another. It’s a ton of fun, although I’m sure a slip and fall would spell doom.

Earlier I saw a display case showing off medals for an ultramarathon that circumnavigates this mountain. Thinking of friends back home, and how much fun they’d be having doing this. It’s Mont Albert that I’m climbing, and the views are surreal. 360 degrees of rock formations poking up into the sky. Surrounded by giants, and here I am making my way to the top of one.

In the distance I can see more snow fields. This time not so docile either. To the left they drop straight down the mountain to certain death, and on the right they drop straight down into rocks, certain death. Unbeknownst to me just yet, the trail asks that I climb straight up.

No thanks. A little to far out of my comfort zone just yet. I’m from Florida, ya’ll. I’ll get there, but alone, and right now I’d rather not take a silly chance, and fall or put my foot through the melting snow into the rocks underneath. I find my way around to a much easier path up the ice. I can feel people watching me from great distances away, wondering what the hell I’m doing.

I make it through safely, and scale my way up talus as fast as I can to the top of the mountain. Everywhere here you’ll find signs saying to stay on the tral. It’s a very sensitive environment, the Quebec caribou are endangered, you’re up above treeline, and what do I see? At the top finally and way off trail I see a couple bathing in an alpine lake.

Making my way across the top of the barren landscape, and loving it. Just me, some rocks, lakes, and nothing else. If only the entire trail was like this, that would be absolutely fantastic. Has me dreaming of the Pacific Crest Trail, or the Continental Divide, or Colorado Trail….. those would consistently be a treat to be walking.

Down into the valley, now walking across boardwalk after boardwalk through a pretty meadow. I hear something over the podcast I’m listening to (thetrailshow of course,) I start filming just in case, and turning a corner what do ya know it’s a big moose munching on some grass. My first moose of the trip. I had been seeing thousands of their foot prints, I guess it was just a matter of time until I actually spotted one.

Getting closer to see if maybe I could pass by freely, that’s a big nope. She moves slightly, and my eyes get a great view of a baby wandering around behind her. Now everything I’ve read, and heard, except for one story from another hiker, has told me that moose are totally chill animals. All the locals say it too, especially during this time of the year they’re very well fed and won’t be a bother. But a big moose and it’s child? Again, not exactly a risk I’m willing to take right now.

I talk to it softly hoping it moves off. It doesnt, so I hang out and watch briefly, until she stomps her hooves a couple times, and makes some loud noises. I take that as a good reason to back off and give them space.

Sitting maybe 200 meters further away now, I question how long I should even wait, or what I should even do. Waiting here forever, another moose is bound to come up from a different direction, and I’d be stuck. After about 30 minutes I slowly creep forward, yelling greetings into the woods, hoping that gives the animal warning to move on.

It’s painfully slow going, and nerve wracking, but for my own personal piece of mind it has to be done.

No moose, good. Back to my normal pace, I come across a campground I was going to blow by, but instead I’m greeted by a backpacker wearing the same shoes as me. A good sign! Everyone else out here is wearing big heavy boots, and all I’ve got are these flimsy tennis shoes. We chit chat, and he’s very nice. The first to tell me that after I leave Gaspesie National Park, the next wilderness area is a total bitch. I kinda laugh it off considering all I’ve went through. He also confirms for me that I did the right thing, with my moose and child encounter.

The day is done, 25 in the book, and I’m camped with two other dudes down the trail. Being around so many people in this park has been nice, but I think I’m ready to see some thru hikers. Weekenders just aren’t on that same journey.

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Day 10 – Life is too short

Down the mountain, passing through land of Christmas trees it’s clear I’m the only one to be out here. Spider webs litter the trail, and within an hour of starting my day I look as though I belong in a Halloween exhibit.

Taking off my hat produces a sound much like peeling an orange. Maybe it’s a testimony to how dirty I am, but I think it’s due to the sticky webbing I’m covered in. Looking down at my shirt I realize it isn’t spiders, it’s caterpillars! And now they’re inching their way across my clothing instead of hanging from the trees. I imagine going to sleep later and waking up with butterflies fluttering out of my sleeping bag the next morning.

River crossings with wooden pallets lain across as a makeshift bridge oddly reminds me of the work I used to do. Easy walking, it’s bittersweet to be walking away from the coast of Quebec. I won’t see the ocean again until I am in Florida, but today is made special because I enter Gaspesie National Park! Well maintained trails, and people to talk to are what I look forward to now.

Met with a public bathroom to set things off I try and charge my phone until a park employee approaches me. Neither of us speak the same language, but I try to explain I’m hiking the SIA (Sentier International des Appalaches) and I’m going up those mountains over there shortly. He furiously taps his watch as if I’ll never make it in time. I smile and go back to my phone.

Instead of having a single track trail from the parking lot to the mountaintop, they have a shuttle that takes tourists 3km to the very base of the first big mountain so the hoards have an easier time. It’s the tallest in the park at 1,268m (Mont Jacques Cartier – 4,160ft) and I refuse a shuttle. Hopping the fence, and making my way up the graven road along a river something big is coming my way fast. A yellow school bus blows by me, easily going 50mph on this winding mountain road. Both beautiful and scary.

The climb was easy, and I make quick work. Nearing the top I go above treeline and the scree begins. No dirt, no grass, just small rocks that make up the trail. In the distance I can see people, a small tower at the summit, lakes below, and many other mountains in all directions.

Leaving the people behind, and their neatly organized trail. I descend the otherside. The rocks are far larger here, and I hop across them no longer following trail markers but instead cairns made by those that have come before me. Large stacks of rocks, like connecting dots. Hopping and climbing, treating myself to the views in the distance, and the beauty in my movements across this strange terrain.

Snow on many of the mountains ahead of me. Odd for July, even more odd for this southern boy. With great joy, the trail even crosses some of these snow fields! I slipped and slid a little but I suppose thats expected for someone without much experience with snow. Alls good, I learn more everyday! Happyness is learning, gaining experience, and forward progress.

Day one in Gaspesie and this trail continues to surprise me. This time not with bad conditions, but instead the most perfect trail ever. Ridge walking, above treeline, across small snowfields, and when I got lower in elevation the trail was still equally as fantastic. Cute meadows, healthy plants and animals, many boardwalks, and here I am feeling great in everyway to fully enjoy all of it.

I stand on a ledge looking back at a mountain I was just on, valley below with a waterfall crashing all the way down, and my day is almost over. Tomorrow I pick up the only package I’ve had sent to Canada. Full of food from home, my tent stakes, water purification, bug spray, soap, knife, and lighter. Yes, 10 full days without these things. I was worried they’d get taken away in the airport, and I don’t need that hassle. Goes to show how little gear you actually need to backpack. Much less than you’d think.

Full of joy I run down the last mountain. Swiftly passing a couple, and dissapearing into the trees. To my amusement there are three already camping where I end up. The real amusement comes when I’m told they’re vegans from New Brunswick, and they have way to much food, and insist that I have some. Vegetable Chili, rice, and flat bread.

Life is too short, not to be doing what you want.

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Day 9 – An Easy 16

Leaving my new friends at L’AmarrĂ© was hard but it must be done! I have miles to make, and a trail to hike.

I was told the next mountain I woukd be hiking was going to be very beautiful and they sure weren’t kidding. One big climb up and over into the next town. Amazing views off the top and a really cool trail going down the side. Totally exposed with panoramic views of the valley, town, and ocean below.

On the top there were a couple strange platforms of wood built. Flat, right on the side of the clif, and leading to certain death. It didn’t dawn on me at first but while making my way down I realized those are for hang gliding! This town offers hang gliding services, and I’ve been told they have a sister company…. down in Florida!

I had accidentally walked away with the hotels room key, and was very fortunate to find someone in town I recognized to bring it back. For a little while I was considering how I could package and send it back via the postal service. Oops! Sorry guys, but I’m very happy I was able to return it.

I grabbed a quick soda from the grocery, and made my way down the trail. Immediately I was following a river through the valley and it was so very peaceful. Sharing the trail with mountain bikers for this small section I was happy to find the trail was extremely well groomed.

I leave the valley and start climbing up what is in the winter likely a snowmobile path. Up and up for maybe an hour and a half without stopping. The trail slims down from a road into a double wide track. For the next 20k the trail is like this, without much climbing, or descending. Occasional views of my surrounding I’m now on the top of the mountains.

On my way to Gaspesie National Park! Something good is a brewing, I’m not going down anymore. Just ever so slightly climbing. Seems as though I’ll stay at this elevation until I’m in park grounds. The next few days I’ll be going over some of the biggest, if not the biggest mountains in Quebec!

Then after that into Matane Wilderness Area for some more carnage. The National Parks spoil me.

Actually looking forward to seeing some people out hiking. The solitude is nice, but so is companionship!

I’m camped at a refuge up in the mountains. The guidebook says I’m supposed to have views of the valley, maybe that was true years ago, now where my view would be is obscured by trees that have grown big and strong.

One more day until I get my resupply box, the only one I sent to Canada. It has my tent stakes, bug spray, water purification, and other things among food for the next stretch. 6 days worth if I remember. One of the most remote sections out here is coming.

I have the woodstove burning in the refuge in hopes it will quiet the rodent living in the walls. Maybe he’s cold too?

In other news I’ve been filming a whole ton of video, and it’s been coming out great! I don’t know what yet I’ll do with it because I don’t exactly have the time to edit, or upload from the trail, but know eventually there will be pretty videos of what’s I’ve been going through out here. One day…. I’ll continue to film. We shall see.

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