There was no question in Jim's or my mind that today would be a rest day.
Although my mileage was pretty low this week, two of the four days I ran/hiked
were grueling 14-15 hour grinds, each with over 15,000 feet of elevation
change across formidable terrain. After yesterday's romp in the Mahoosuc Range,
I was one whipped puppy. Even Jim was tired after doing twelve miles of that
I feel like I've been run over by a truck. After tough ultra races,
especially 100-milers, Jim and I often joke and ask, "Did you get the number on
that truck?" That's how we feel today.
My knees are both very sore; I've been icing them. Wearing my knee braces
yesterday helped some, but couldn't completely mitigate the severe strain from
all the steep climbs up and down and the bouldering I had to do. My right upper arm and
shoulder hurt from days of keeping a death grip on my trekking pole,
grabbing onto trees on steep ups and downs, and hoisting myself up rocks.
It is an effort to stay awake this sunny Sunday afternoon, even after a
ten-hour stretch in bed last night. Deep sleep doesn't come easily after such
We awoke to rain this morning. Where did that come from? Certainly not
from the weather reports out of Portland, Maine, south of here. It quit about 9
AM, however, and the day turned sunny with white puffy clouds.
We both are fully aware of the dangers of hiking in this area in the rain.
I'd have been on the Trail even longer yesterday if those rock slabs had been
wet. The "suicide slabs" high up on Old Speck would have been even more
treacherous than they were. (Sure glad I didn't have to go down them; on his way
to meet me, Jim carefully went down those steep slabs backwards on all fours -
and the rocks were dry.)
And I simply could not have made it through the Mahoosuc Notch if the
boulders had been wet. Some people have done it in the rain, but I don't see
how. It's hard enough to "get a grip" on those boulders when they are dry. I saw
in the register at the Full Goose shelter yesterday that "Painfully Slow," a
middle-aged female SOBO thru-hiker, went through the Notch in the rain, "very
slowly." I'm impressed.
Jim moved the camper yesterday morning to a spacious campground near Hanover,
Maine: Stony Brook Recreation. It's one of the nicer private campgrounds we've
found. The Good Sam rate is low and it's conveniently located for the next
couple trail heads.
The campground owners have generously provided special meals to all the
guests to celebrate the holidays this summer. For Labor Day they invited
everyone to dine on turkey, roast beef, gravy, two kinds of baked beans, chili,
and salad. From our site we could see them cooking the food in big pots all
morning. It was fun to talk with some of the campground hosts, staff, and other
campers. All were our age or older, and were amazed that a woman my age was
hiking the whole AT.
Sometimes I amaze myself! Jim was very proud of me for completing yesterday's
hike. Other hikers were amazed that I'd tackle nineteen miles in the Mahoosucs
in one day (I didn't tell them about the bonus mileage to get up to the AT).
On the way up Old Speck to meet me yesterday, Jim ran into "Charlie Brown"
and "Steady Eddie." They were doing ten miles a day in that section and
couldn't believe I was attempting double that. They just shook their heads, Jim
I talked with "Shatter," caretaker for several miles on either side of the
NH/ME border, near the Full Goose shelter yesterday. Jim and I met him at
Gentian Pond on Wednesday. I was still a mile or more from the Mahoosuc Notch,
with a good ways to go. He said he's never known anyone to get that far in one
He's obviously never heard of David Horton or Andrew Thompson, who both did
'way more than I did in that section (and everywhere else).
GAINING A NEW PERSPECTIVE
The whole time I've been on the AT, I've been comparing my mileage and speed
to Horton, Palmer, Shivers, and Thompson, the only ultra runners I know who've
run the AT. They are all so much faster than me, so much stronger. And I've felt
pretty pathetic in comparison.
Yesterday I achieved a major milestone regarding perspective, finally
after four months on the Trail. I realized clearly in my mind how utterly futile
(and stupid) that comparison is. Just because I'm an ultra runner doesn't mean I
have to run or hike ultra distances every day on the AT. Just because I'm an
ultra runner doesn't mean I have to run when it's dangerous for me to do so.
Just because I'm an ultra runner doesn't mean I have to achieve three or four
mile-per-hour paces in difficult terrain.
Hike your own hike. Run your own run. Stop comparing yourself to
Compared to most thru-hikers, the tough ones still out here on the Trail
after 1,900 miles, what I accomplished yesterday is almost incomprehensible.
Everyone I talked to thought it was crazy to attempt that distance on that
section of the Mahoosucs.
But I did it, a 56-year-old woman with arthritis who's already covered 1,900
miles on this difficult trail this summer. And I'm very proud of it, despite feeling like a truck ran over
Below, photo Jim took yesterday afternoon looking southwest from Old Speck
Mountain toward Success Pond:
I told Jim last night that if I'd known how tough the Whites and Mahoosucs
were, I probably never would have attempted this adventure run. I thought I had
researched the Trail pretty thoroughly before starting out. But until
experiencing the difficult terrain in person, other people's descriptions lacked
perspective. What's hard for one hiker or runner is easy for another. My
comparisons of "difficult" were based on years of running ultras in mountainous
terrain all over the West and Southeast, but not in the Northeast.
Who would have thought that trails in New Hampshire and Maine could be so
tough? Lemme tell ya, the trail designers here have made even 3,000 to 4,000
foot mountains as difficult to run - or walk - as anything Jim and I have seen
in the western United States at elevations of up to and over 14,000 feet.
I'm glad Jim experienced the tough terrain on Old Speck and Mahoosuc Arm
yesterday. Too bad he missed the Notch! Even though it will slow us down, he
fully understands the need for me to keep my mileage lower until the terrain
eases up (about another hundred miles) and the necessity to avoid running/hiking
on rainy days. We both want to go home as soon as possible, but safety is
paramount. I can't realize my dream if I get hurt or die in the attempt!
In light of that, tomorrow's segment over two Baldpate peaks and Success
Mountain will be only 10.3 miles. It includes 3,000 feet of gain in several
steep ascents, 3,250 feet of loss in several steep descents, and another notch
that may be full of boulders (the description in the guide is vague). This may
translate into a ten-hour trek but I'll try to do it faster.
OUT OF TOUCH IN THE MAINE WILDS
We have no internet connection anywhere close to this campground. We
understand that cell phone reception and internet access is pretty limited in
western Maine, so our journal entries and access to e-mail messages will be
intermittent the next couple weeks. I'll keep writing journal entries and we'll
keep responding to e-mail. Jim will upload/send them when possible.
Don't stop writing! Your support and encouragement mean a lot, especially now
when the going is especially tough for both of us.