Not all those who wander are lost

14 states, 2,180 miles, 5,000,000+ steps

Month: August, 2013

Goodbye Maine, Hello Whites

So much has happened since the last time I updated the blog. We have made it out of Maine, and we’re about 60 miles into New Hampshire. The trail has been beautiful and the views have been even better.
Our last full day in Maine was rainy and dreary. It was almost as if the state were trying to keep us there. We only had 8 more miles until the end, but we had to go over 4 mountains and make our way through the slowest mile on the trail. The earlier part of the day was enjoyable because we were climbing over and under rocks in the mahoosuc notch – but that quickly changed when it started raining, and what had been fun became perilous. After the notch we started climbing. We made it over our first two mountains without any problems, but the third would prove problematic, because of bogs with mud that came up to our waist. The rest of the day was fairly normal and we arrived at the shelter with little daylight to spare.
We caught wind of an all-you-can-eat buffet in Gorham, NH, so we decided to wake up at 4:30 and hike the 17.5 miles into town. The 17.5 miles into Gorham would prove to be easier than we thought, because the sun was shining and the trail was beautiful. At one point we were even running through the woods because we were so motivated to get to town. When we arrived in Gorham we dropped off our packs at the hostel and ran the mile to the Chinese buffet.
Our two nights in Gorham were much needed and deserved, but we were ready to get started hiking in the White Mountain National Forest – a.k.a. The Whites. The Whites contain some of the tallest mountains of the trail, and we would spend most of our days hiking above the tree line while being exposed to the elements. The hiking above the tree line would prove to be my favorite hiking experience, because you get amazing 360 degree views. The only downside, though, is the sun is always on you, and the wind is constant. There aren’t many places you can camp above the tree line, but we were able to obtain a work-for-stay at the Madison Hut between Mt. Madison and Mt. Adams. This allowed us to sleep indoors and eat the leftover food from the dinner that they served to the paying tourists.
After our stay at Madison Hut we began our hike along the ridge that would lead to our ascent of Mt. Washington. The hike to Washington’s peak has been my favorite hike, to date. The weather was perfect and the hike up Washington was pleasant and rewarding. The view from the top was phenomenal, and we had completed one of our milestones on the trail. The only downside was, we had to share the summit with tourists who drove and took the train up the mountain. It really bothered me to see them take their picture at the top just like us, or to hear them say that they had “reached the top”. I felt like it took away from our accomplishment, but in the end I was still excited to have reached the top.
After Washington, we had a 1.5 mile climb down to the Lake of the Clouds hut where we wanted to try to obtain another work-for-stay, because it was 4 miles until the tree line and there was a thunderstorm coming in later. We were told that they had room for us to do a work-for-stay, but then the hut master decided that they didn’t, so they told us we could pay 10 dollars and sleep in the “dungeon”. The dungeon was a small rock room with a big metal door that was part of the original hut building. There were six rickety bunks in the room that we would come to learn that we had to share with some four-legged furry friends. I slept pretty well in the dungeon and I was only wakened a couple of times because the wind and the rain outside was so loud – but that is to be expected at that elevation.
When we woke up the next morning, it was 40 degrees outside with winds from 30-60 mph, and only a visibility of about 100 feet. We took our time getting ready and made sure we were bundled up to the max. When we finally set off we made sure we were close together and could always see each other so we wouldn’t get separated. This was a nerve-racking time, but the fog would soon give way to the sun, and we would drop down below the tree line so that we were shielded from the wind. We ate lunch at the Mizpah hut and then set off to finish the last 6 miles of our day.
The day would end with our hike taking us on the edge of the Webster cliffs for a mile and then 2000 feet down to the road. When we finally got down off the cliffs, we saw a sign for a free stay at a trail angel’s house about 20 miles away. We called the angel and asked about the sign, and he said we could stay in his house, but that he was at work, so he couldn’t pick us up. So, we split the cost of a cab and an hour later we found ourselves at a stranger’s house doing laundry and showering. We still aren’t used to random acts of kindness like this, but it is always an amazing feeling when someone opens their house for you or offers you a ride. The stay at the angel’s house was very refreshing, but the best part was that we met this 5-year-old named Christian – a.k.a. Buddy Backpack who was attempting a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail just like us. It is so inspiring that someone so young has the courage to try this. Even with his parents being with him, it is still so impressive.
We have about 100 miles left in New Hampshire, so we are hoping to make it to Hanover before the 31st so we can watch the UGA vs Clemson game and relax before we start Vermont. New Hampshire has been amazing, but I’m ready for Vermont. The trail has been amazing and the adventures continue. Oh, and we have our first sponsor, Probar.

-Alex-
“Wild Reeves”

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The pinnacle

We are finally at the point in our trip where I feel like we will make it home soon. Having been on the trail for nearly two months – and 80% of the work has been done in these first two states – theoretically, it is all downhill from here. I have learned a lot about camping and hiking, and a bit about myself as well. What I do know for sure is that the woods are beautiful, but at times this beauty is out-shined by desperation and intensity – usually when it’s raining or I’m close to running out of food. Lately I have not been as anxious about completing the trail on time – this experience has been so rewarding that I am already content with the results.
Yesterday was my favorite day so far. It was absolutely spectacular – you should look at the pictures. They are great, but they still don’t do these magnificent structures justice. They really can make you feel small with their sheer size and the obstacles that they present for a climber/hiker. Even though this trail is not nearly the most difficult thing I have ever done, the bad days still test my patience and will. These two sensations coupled together can make you feel completely helpless, but I have found it much easier to have a peaceful heart here lately. Until next time.
-Andrew “alpacka” Fortenberry

Isaiah 26:3
“You will keep in kerf exit peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts You.”

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Appalachian Trail Ramblings

1. An all you can eat buffet in the next town is the ultimate motivation for a thru-hiker.

2. The size of your beard on the AT is directly related to your respectability.

3. People ask – what do you think about while you are hiking…food, food, and more food.

4. It’s weird that I have lost 30 lbs, but I have the appetite of a pregnant elephant.

5. If I pass you on the trail and you smell like juniper berry or cucumber melon, then don’t talk to me, because I have already judged you as a yuppie.

6. If you are going to route the trail over the chest-deep mud, please make sure you build a bridge over it. Pulling group members out of the mud is hard work.

7. People get so offended when they see you hitch hiking…

8. The looks on people’s faces in town are priceless when they get close enough to smell you.

9. No, showering before I go to the buffet does not have priority when the buffet closes in an hour.

10. Yes, I did eat a Cheerio that I found on the trail…in fact I did it three times.

11. Hitch hiking is an art form.

12. Most of the time the AT is not a trail but is a life-size game of connect the dots.

13. Rain sucks!

14. It’s sad when I can climb down a steep mountain in the rain but I can’t walk down four steps without busting my butt.

15. Slugs move faster than they let on.

16. The best way to ford a river is to strip down to your underwear and just walk across.

17. It’s very discouraging when you wake up and see the mosquitoes waiting for you to climb out of your bug net so they can have their breakfast.

18. Spooning in the back of a truck is perfectly acceptable when everyone in the party is cold.

19. Hotel managers fear thru-hikers.

20. You go into a yuppie coma when you walk into your first Walmart after a month of hiking.

21. You know you smell bad when you wake yourself up in the middle of the night because of how bad you stink.

22. If you sound like a cross between a chainsaw and a bulldozer when you sleep, you should not sleep in the shelter.

23. Sometimes all you get at hostels to wear while your clothes are washing is women’s shorts or pants and a scrub top…rock them anyways.

24. Taking a nap in the middle of the trail is perfectly acceptable.

25. Painting white blazes on boulders does not mean that you have built a trail. It means you are a cruel person who doesn’t know the concept of going around something.

26. It’s messed up when the drive to the start of the trail is 1300 miles but the walk back is 2185.

27. You don’t get credit for all the miles you hike.

28. I now have a greater appreciation for hitch hikers.

29. I have been mistaken numerous times for a homeless person.

30. No pictures or words could describe what truly happens while hiking the Appalachian Trail.

-Alex-
“Wild Reeves”

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He Created This

When I have miles and miles of trail to hike, I find it easy to just put my head down and only look at the trail and where I place my feet. But then there’s the rare moment when you are able to look up at your surroundings and take in God’s creation. A couple days ago we were scheduled to climb four mountains in one day. The first climb wasn’t too bad because we were still fresh from the night before. By the time the second climb rolled around – the highest of the day – the weather was starting to look more and more like rain. I got a good view of the mountain when we were hiking up to it. This beast of an obstacle was called “The Horn”. It’s just over 4,000 feet and it was straight up. I put my head down and started up. I figured I would climb for a while and then take a break like I usually do. In fact, I’m usually the last one in the group to the top of a mountain, but for some reason I started up first. I’m not sure when I noticed it, but at one point in the climb I realized that I couldn’t hear the rest of the group behind me. Had they slowed down? Had they stopped for a break? I had enough water to get to the top so I decided to keep going. I kept trucking, telling myself that I would take a break soon. After a while of this, I caught a glimpse of the top of the mountain. I was over halfway there. I thanked God for bringing me so far and told Him that this one was for Him. I put my head down and kept going. I told Him I wouldn’t even take a break or wait for the others. I finally made it to the tree line. This meant that I no longer had the trees to shield me from the wind or elements. The climb became even harder, because the trail became a rock crawl. I put my trekking poles up and started crawling on my hands and feet up over these rocks and boulders. At one point the trail coincided with a stream going down the side of the mountain. My “trail” had become a stream for about 20 feet. I kept going. At this point I was praying my way up the rest of the mountain. I finally saw it…there I was…the peak. The sign marking the end of the climb. I wanted to run to the end but I was too cold to run and the terrain was too rocky. I could barely contain my excitement. I let out a loud roar that would have made even Mufasa sound like a cub. I walked up to the sign, put my hand on it to make sure it was real and then looked around. I could see everything from up here. God created all of this; the mountain, the lakes, the sun, the clouds, the trees, the rivers, the rocks – and it was all beautiful.
This adventure has gotten me thinking. The same God that created this beautiful planet that we take for granted every day is the same God that is getting me through my trials and heartaches. He is the same God that guides us through our lives and holds us close to Him when our lives get turned upside down. It’s easy to let the little things of our daily lives get to us or to get frustrated when we don’t understand something, but there is no denying how powerful and loving our God is when you are standing on top of a mountain.
-Alex-
“Wild Reeves”

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